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Are You Happy? Don’t Worry, Be Present! New Study Says

in Thanks for the tip, YD News

Psst…we’re over here. We said, are you happy? Hey, are you even paying attention??

According to reports there’s a 65% chance you are most likely not! And you’re probably not going to be any happier for it. So listen up.

Everyone’s getting excited from TIME, to the BBC to The New York Times about a study that surveyed approximately 2,200 folks from around the world via an iPhone app (go figure) called trackyourhappiness (brilliant) asking the burning question, “Does daydreaming make you happier?”

As it turns out, no! It does not. Think about it, when you let it, what does your mind drift away to? No really, stop for a second and let your mind wander…it’s like that Alanis Morissette song, “Did you think about your bills, your ex, your deadlines, or when you think you’re gonna die? Or did you long for the next distraction?” Right?

We as humans are riddled with distractions. We as yogadorks know that, but it’s always fun to get nerdy and scientific about it.

“Unlike other animals, human beings spend a lot of time thinking about what is not going on around them, contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or will never happen at all,” the authors of the study, Harvard doctoral student Matthew Killingsworth and psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, write in the new paper [published in Science]. And that unique ability, they found, does not make for a happier species.

Holy cannoli! Hello! If you’re pining for what was, what isn’t or what might be, how could that possibly bring you happiness? Is this starting to sound familiar? Participants in the study were asked in random intervals what they were doing, how they were feeling and what they were thinking. From over a quarter of a million responses, conclusions show that feeling bummed out leads to mind-wandering, and that mind-wandering leads to feeling bummed out.  “Our main result is that mind wandering on average is associated with less happiness,” says Killingsworth. Even “think positive thoughts!” daydreaming when doing something less than enjoyable didn’t help.

But hey, don’t worry, be present! Cause you know what did keep people happier? Being in the moment. Perhaps least surprisingly, the cheeriest responses were recorded during sex, where there was much less opportunity to uh, lose focus. Anything else and people reported their mind wandering 30% of the time, and even 65% when doing things like personal grooming or commuting – boring! Interestingly, guess what came in second to sex in happytime activities. Exercise. Now we’re not going to put words into iPhone appy happiness study finders’ mouths, but there are lots more people practicing yoga these days as a form of exercise, and learning to be present in their bodies and minds on the mat. Could that be making people happier? We’re just sayin!

Indeed, in contrast to mind wandering, being able to focus on the present is thought to boost happiness. Most meditation techniques involve learning to “be in the moment,” and numerous studies have linked meditation to greater happiness, better ability to cope with stress and pain and even improvements in physical health. “It gives you more opportunity to stand back and take a moment to choose what to do next, instead of having your mind on auto-pilot and you’re not there,” says Marlatt [Alan Marlatt co-author of Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention]. The ability to call home the wandering mind, and just “take time to be where you are,” through techniques like focusing on breathing can “make a huge difference,” he says.

We’re all plagued by inner chatter – we call them vrittis (bing!) – whether it’s good thoughts, bad thoughts, imagination, memory or simply sleeping, these are the fluctuating states of the monkey mind. If you’re looking for happiness, stop grasping for diversions and dive into the NOW. Practice yoga, try meditation, bake cookies or by all means have sex! Whatever it is, even if it’s scooping poop out of the litter box (literally or figuratively) focus, be IN it and git er done.

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.” — Pema Chödrön When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
“I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.” comedian Steven Wright
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2 comments… add one

  • Shanda

    :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)
    Your post just made me so happy.
    Or was it the particularly purple hue of the sky this evening….
    Or maybe that cloud shaped like a balloon…

  • Meri

    This is something I really do try to work on. I read such things as, The Power Of Now by Eckhart Toll during my boring job, I focus on things as breathing or what sounds I hear while I drive, but one thing I find is that I’m more creative when I daydream. I’m more bummed out as well though. How do you find that balance of being able to conjure up creative thought and yet not be bummed out by the daydreaming aspect.
    Awareness?

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