Wandering mind makes you sad

 “A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” wrote psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University in the journal Science.

“The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

The study tracked 2,250 people via the trendy iPhone gadgets using an application, or app, that contacted 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 something else that was pleasant, neutral or unpleasant.”

When the results were tallied, people had answered that their minds were wandering 46.9 per cent of the time.

Subjects reported being happiest while having sex, exercising or having a conversation. They reported being least happy while using a home computer, resting or working.

Gauging happiness

By examining the mind-wandering responses, researchers found that “only 4.6 per cent 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 per cent of his or her happiness.”

The study said “time-lag analyses” suggested that “subjects’ mind-wandering was generally the cause, not the consequence, of their unhappiness.”

But during sex, the subjects tended to be most focussed on the present, and least prone to mind-wandering, the study noted. During every other activity, minds were wandering no less than 30 per cent of the time.

Seventy-four per cent of those followed in the study were American, the researchers said, adding that the subjects came from a “wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and occupations.”

“Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” said Killingsworth.
“This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present.”

The application is available at www.trackyourhappiness.org.

Simple acts that bring smiles

What makes people happy? Just a simple act of kindness, such as a sincere compliment or an “I love you” from the partner or even a “thank you” from the boss, a British study says.

Researchers found that a well-timed compliment about appearance is the “biggest little thing” that can make a difference to someone’s day.

The study also found that being told “I love you” by a partner was the second-best thing, followed by a surprise note or card from a loved one, or having a cuddle. Finding money you had forgotten about in a pocket of an old pair of trousers completed the top five.

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