How much does your mind wander?
An ongoing study into the nature of what makes us happy was reported in the Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb 2012). The findings so far suggest that the more our minds wander, the less happy we are, or put another way, a focussed mind is a happy mind.
Some interesting findings were:
- · All of our minds wander (actually this isn’t new or surprising!)
- · Our minds wander according to the activity we are doing (e.g., 60% of time when we are commuting, 30% of time talking to others, 10% having sex)
- · Mind wandering to unpleasant or neutral topics is associated with lower mood
- · This suggests that to optimise our emotional wellbeing, we need to pay as much attention to what our minds are doing (where they are – past/present/future – and what they are thinking about) as to what our bodies are doing
- · Mind wandering on the job tends to reduce productivity
This new research fits with current knowledge about the tendency our minds have to over think, or ruminate. For example if you’ve decided to take a break from working so you can make yourself a cup of tea; as you stand at the kettle, your mind wanders off and ruminates about a conversation you had yesterday. You don’t get a break because your mind isn’t on the tea; your mind is worrying about what you said, what the other person might have thought about you, how you might put the situation right again.