Why Can’t I Remember What Day It Is? Science Says It's About More Than Just Your Busy Schedule
If you've ever experienced brain fog, you know what it's like to have the world go hazy all of a sudden. Sometimes it's because you're tired; other times it's because you're drowning in a heavy workload and can't differentiate between office time from real time. Blame it on a shorter work week, summer haze, or just the general hustle and bustle of life, but time perception can get disoriented easily, which is probably why you can't remember what day it is sometimes.
I know I especially have this problem during the summer. At least when I was a kid and had nothing but time for three whole months, it felt like I had a legitimate excuse not to know my Tuesdays from my Thursdays. However, there's a ton of research out there that suggests losing track of what day it is becomes more frequent as you get older.
The fact is, there are seven days in a week, 24 hours in a day, and 60 minutes in an hour -- this never changes. How fast or slow a week, day, or hour goes by all depends on our conscious awareness, as well as circumstance.
For example, time feels like it moves more slowly when you're bored or stressed out.
In a study published earlier this year in Psychophysiology, researchers analyzed 42 participants before, during, and after they experienced a modified version of the Trier Social Stress Test, which is a procedure often used in research to reliably cause human participants to experience stress. The results showed that time perception can fluctuate as a result of social stress.
Boredom has a similar effect. We've all sat through a dry lecture or a movie we thought would be interesting but actually turned out to be a dud, checking the time every other minute. Time flies when you're having fun, and slows down when you're not.
Also, when you think about it, there's usually nothing particularly significant about Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday to look forward to.
Unless you're like me and you pencil certain shows into your calendar to add a little pizzazz to weeknights, or you're someone who plans social activities like exercise classes or happy hour with friends after work, the days in between the beginning and end of the week can often just blur together.
In a 2015 study published in PLOS ONE, psychologists from the U.K. tested this theory, indicating that, generally, people are quick to identify what day of the week it is on Monday, as well as Friday through Saturday, than they are the middays of the week.
One of the three experiments focused on 60 college students to explore mental association with days of the week. According to the research, participants struggled to correlate adjectives with midweek days in comparison to Fridays, Mondays, and the weekend.
In my opinion, this isn't too surprising. We all loathe Mondays and love Fridays. Weekends symbolize freedom and plans with loved ones, while Tuesday through Thursday are usually all about work. It's easy to forget what day it is when there's nothing particularly interesting going on.
How old you are plays a key role in time perception, too.
Remember when you were a kid, and summer vacation would last forever? As heartbreaking as this is to say, time flies when you're an adult, and instead of weekdays blending together because of how much time you have to do things, we're left playing catch up.
Anne Wilson, a professor at the Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, told The Cut,
Days of the week is another set of temporal markers that don't really have inherent meaning on their own. We often recall the correct day of the week because it follows the same pattern every week. A long weekend can throw that off simply because the pattern is temporarily disrupted.
We recognize days of the week because we're accustomed to a pattern, but the tiniest discrepancy can throw us off. Maybe you're coming back from a three- or four-day weekend, and all the work days feel jumbled as a result. You're feeling the Wednesday feels on a Thursday; maybe an important meeting get pushed back.
As an adult, we have more responsibilities on our plates, more spontaneous events and activities that come up and throw us off our regular routines, so it becomes easier to confuse Wednesday's work dinner with Thursday's happy hour.
First there's growing pains, now there's growing forgetfulness. Thank goodness tomorrow's Friday. Wait, is it?