How to be happier: Don’t let your mind wander.

howtobehappier2If you think daydreaming is a good way to escape from the boredom or annoyance of whatever you’re doing at the moment, think again. Researchers have found that letting your mind wander may cause unhappiness.

In one experiment, researchers used an iPhone app to ask people several times a day what they were doing, what they were thinking about, and how happy they were. What they found was this:

Whatever people were doing, whether it was having sex or reading or shopping, they tended to be happier if they focused on the activity instead of thinking about something else. In fact, whether and where their minds wandered was a better predictor of happiness than what they were doing.

Psychologists have long talked about a concept of “flow”, where you’re so involved in what you’re doing that you’re not noticing time passing by and are able to stay extremely focused. The idea of not letting your mind is related and worth trying, whether you’re at work or hanging out with your kids in the park. (It’s OK to put your mental to-do list away for a bit or take a break from worrying about something in the future.)

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