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effectively slowing down time, just as in accident situations when we shift out of our normal consciousness.

Mike Hall, a sports consultant and author of In Praise of Slow, has spent nearly 15 years learning how to use the discipline of tai-chi to "slow down" time while playing squash and golf.

"If the brain waves are in synch with the heart rhythms, this is the way the body moves into a state called 'the zone'. It's like playing in slow motion and you have gone beyond linear time."

Perception is brilliantly enhanced to the point where even the yellow dot on the squash ball can be seen during play, he says. Timothy Gallwey’s “Inner game of Tennis” suggests looking at the seam on the ball as it travels towards you.

Some believe time is elastic, not solid, so a man on a three-hour plane journey can have a longer "psychological time" than the passenger next to him. And a man who dies at 40 but has travelled around the world and had new experiences can live a longer life than a man who dies at 80 who has stayed home for all of it.

Western culture presents a linear view of time, with human lives like a river running through the past, present and future.

It may be true that society has become more time-poor, as life has become more hectic, but humans have probably always experienced a speeding up of time as they get older, although this can be controlled.

Make sure your life is as full of new experiences as possible. If you live a life that's full of routine, then time will always speed up but if you make an effort to travel to new environments and expose yourself to new situations, new challenges, even something simple like a new route to work, new interests, new hobbies, then this degree of newness slows down time.

Similarly, spending an evening in a "state of absorption" reading a book or watching a DVD will make the time pass quickly, as will a holiday spent on a beach or by a pool. But varying the activities will help stretch out the minutes and hours.

We try to extend our lives by keeping fit and having a healthy diet, which is fine but it's also possible to lengthen our life by changing our experience of time and having new experiences and spending more time living in the present.

We often feel threatened or negative towards things we can't control, helpless ... so if you can control time, it is no longer the enemy.

So summer holidays needn't pass so quickly. But you'll need to leave the pool and put the book down in order to stop it. Ω