A study conducted by two Harvard University researchers suggests that people’s wandering minds are to blame for their unhappiness. In addition, they found that happiness was not necessarily a consequence of what someone was doing, but how focused they were while doing it.
Using an Internet-based cell phone application to gather feedback, the researchers asked their subjects if they were focused while engaged in certain activities, or if their minds were drifting towards something totally different. The subjects were then asked to describe their level of contentment during each activity.
The results concluded that people’s minds wander at least 50% of the time and while the mind is wandering, most people feel unhappy. It is worth noting that in this experiment minds wandered less during sex, exercise or while engaged in conversation and more in those who were working, using a home computer or resting. However you want to interpret this, the important message is that we only spend half of our waking hours focused and experiencing happiness.
Do you want to be happy more than 50% of the time, whether you are working, exercising or spending time with others? The following tips will help you focus, and “be here now” as esteemed spiritual leader Ram Dass famously states.
Deep breathing is a very effective way to draw your attention from thoughts of the past or of the future and bring it to the core of the present moment. When you are aware of your thoughts, however erratic and wandering, you will have more success at controlling them, and therefore having more focus.
Once you do finally become focused, it is important to not resist any feelings, emotions or frustrations you may be experiencing. Buddhist philosophers such as Pema Chodron teach the practice of sitting with, or being fully present with any uncomfortable feelings in order for us to diffuse the power they have in making us unhappy.
Accepting what is happening in the now keeps the mind tuned in and focused. When we can fully accept how we feel, what we’re doing and where we are, and not let our minds wander in the process, we will hopefully be happy at least more than 50% of the time.
December 21st, 2011