A new U.S. study conducted by a team of researchers found wandering minds lead to unhappiness. The results of the study are available in the most recent installment of Science journal released Thursday.
Psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University published the results of a 2,250 person voluntary study using iPhone applications. Killingsworth and his team conducted the study at "random intervals" offering questions pertaining to "how happy [the participants] were, what they were currently doing, and whether they were thinking about their current activity or something else that was pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant."
Participants of the study were mostly American with a "wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and occupations." The team found that people spend nearly half of their time essentially absent from the moment, and the constant state of mind wandering contributes to unhappiness. Killingsworth stated: "The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive acheivement that comes at an emotional cost." The study found participants' minds were wandering 46.9 percent of the time and that "4.6 percent of a person's happiness in a given moment was attibutable 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." The team also found that mind-wandering was the cause and not the effect of unhappiness.
The researchers found that subjects reported having sex, exercising, or conversing with others, as the top happiest activities. Participants reported being least happy when using a computer at home, working, or resting.
For more: Science