“Maybe, to be happy, we need to stay completely immersed and focused on our experience in the moment. Maybe this is good advice; maybe mind-wandering is a bad thing.” Dr. Matthew Killingsworth is the creator and director of trackyourhappiness.org, a large-scale scientific research project that investigates what qualities, characteristics, and habits contribute to a happy life. He has gathered some of the most extensive data to help answer a question as old as time: what is the key to happiness and how can we secure more of it in our daily lives? As his quote suggests, the solution might rest on improving our ability to focus.
What Does the Science Reveal?
In many of his interviews, Dr. Killingsworth explains that the basic premise of his work is founded upon the idea that “if [they] can watch how people’s happiness goes up and down over the course of the day, and try to understand how things like what people are doing, who they’re with, what they’re thinking about, and all the other factors that describe our experiences relate to those ups and downs, [they] might eventually be able to discover some of the major causes of human happiness.”
After analyzing over 65,000 reports, the team at Track Your Happiness noticed a significant trend. On average, individuals’ minds wander away from their current activities at least 30% of the time; and mind-wandering was found to be one of the biggest determining factors on perceived levels of happiness. In fact, “how often a person’s mind wanders, and what they think about when it does, is far more predictive of happiness than how much money they make.”
No matter the activity, individuals are more likely to experience elevated moods when they are able to completely focus on what they are doing and the task at hand. Engaging with the present moment is more than just a popular tagline for the yoga community; it is actually the secret to unlocking greater joy and connection in life. When mind-wandering increases, an individuals’ happiness takes a direct hit. This link was so significant that the researchers even identified “mind-wandering [as] a cause, and not merely a consequence, of unhappiness.”
Unlocking Your Happiness in One Simple Step
There’s reason to cheer if focus is the answer to a happier life. The relentless striving and achieving for external gain can take a backseat, or at the very least a temporary hiatus. Instead of mentally rattling through what you need more or less of; what you need to do and who you need to be, we suggest developing one simple habit.
Meditation is one of the most effective ways to improve focus and presence, which means that it is also one of the most important daily practices to cultivate for sustained happiness. You don’t have to be a zen master to enjoy the effects! As Dr. Killingsworth has shown, it is the quality of mindfulness, regardless of the specific activity, that determines how uplifted we feel in any given moment. To read more about meditation or find your ideal style, read our previous blog articles!
If you’re already an avid meditator and looking for an extra boost to your daily focus, try adding Cured Rise to your morning routine! You’ll be your own happiness guru in no time!
Killingsworth, M. K. (2013, July 16). Does mind-wandering make you unhappy? Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/does_mind_wandering_make_you_unhappy.