A WANDERING MIND IS AN UNHAPPY MIND- LIFE IS WHAT YOU AGREE TO ATTEND TO
March 23, 2015 — CHRISTINE SIMKO
“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind…The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.” — Harvard Psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Matt Killingsworth
Ed Diener and Martin Seligman screened over 200 undergraduates for levels of happiness and compared the upper 10% (the “extremely happy”) with the middle and bottom 10%. Extremely happy students experienced no greater number of objectively positive life events, like doing well on exams or hot dates, than did the other two groups (Diener & Seligman, 2002). Second, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues tracked the moods and activities of 909 employed women by asking them to record in detail their previous day’s experiences (Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2004). They found that most major life circumstances, including women’s household income and various features of their jobs (such as whether these jobs included excellent benefits), were correlated only minimally with their moment-by-moment happiness. (In contrast, women’s sleep quality and proneness toward depression were good predictors of their happiness.) Very happy people do not experience more happy life events that make them happier than less happy people, even people with more moula are not happier. (When a nation’s GDP rises above $10,000.00 per capita there is no relationship between GDP and happiness.)
So what is it that makes these people so much happier? The problem is we have weak filters. We live in a modern, technologically advanced world where information is consistently being throw at us from every direction and channel possible with the sole purpose of distracting us from living in the moment. Despite multitasking being proven to be not good for our brains it is still considered a professional talent to have. People have even said they feel just plain cooler when attempting to multitask. But science shows the only true difference between happy people and those who aren’t is that happy people are focused everyday. Focusing on the task at hand, just being mindfully aware of what is presently going on. By not allowing your mind to wander and being in the present moment with everything you do, you are happy with your life because you see the little things differently. It’s pretty simple.
Unfortunately, we are creatures of habit and humans do what is easy, convenient and comfortable rather than what is guaranteed by science to make them happier. Let’s call this the junk food effect.
“Junk food is stripped of the essentials of real food, leaving just the vulgar, the simple, the obvious of taste: sugar, salt, fat, repeat. It is the pornographization of food. The mistake people make is that they think it is delicious, but it’s really just easy, comforting, reliable, satisfying…. After s while potato chips just figure into your routine, there’s a passing thought that perhaps you shouldn’t but since there aren’t any obvious and immediate consequences… and now it’s just a part of who you are.”
A paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40% of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits. Habit is what governs the majority of our daily lives. We live on autopilot.
“Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” Killingsworth says. “In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”
A researcher from Harvard named Matt Killingsworth developed an iPhone app that contacted 2,250 volunteers at random intervals to ask how happy they were, what they were currently doing, and whether they were thinking about their current activity or about something else that was pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant.
Subjects could choose from 22 general activities, such as walking, eating, shopping, and watching television. On average, respondents reported that their minds were wandering 46.9 percent of time, and no less than 30 percent of the time during every activity except making love.
“Mind-wandering appears ubiquitous across all activities,” says Killingsworth, a doctoral student in psychology at Harvard. “This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the nonpresent.”
The researchers estimated that only 4.6 percent of a person’s happiness in a given moment was attributable to the specific activity he or she was doing, whereas a person’s mind-wandering status accounted for about 10.8 percent of his or her happiness.
Time-lag analyses conducted by the researchers suggested that their subjects’ mind-wandering was generally the cause, not the consequence, of their unhappiness.
This new research proves that all that spirituality stuff you’ve heard about like mindfulness and stuff Buddhists monks do like learn to silence their thoughts are correct traditions for true happiness.
So do yourself a favor and stop consuming mental junk food. Be present and love your life instantly by seeing it differently. Stop making excuses and be happy right now!
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