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If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, your teacher probably harped on you about “mindfulness,” or being present — because it puts you in a better mood. Now Harvard psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert confirmed that the centuries-old Buddhist practice is worth paying attention to.
Using an iPhone app called trackyourhappiness, researchers asked 2,200 people globally to respond to text messages at any given moment, explaining what they were doing and how happy they were. After sifting through 25,000 text messages, Killingsworth and Gilbert found that 46% of the time, people were daydreaming, and they weren’t all that happy. The ones who were fully engaged in an activity were happiest.
“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” they said in the study, which was published in Science magazine. “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”
Basically, we’re more likely to think negative thoughts if we let our minds wander. And it makes sense that commuters and people waiting in line are more irritable. “We see evidence for mind-wandering causing unhappiness, but no evidence for unhappiness causing mind-wandering,” Mr. Killingsworth told the New York Times.
Perhaps we could take the advice of William F. Buckley Jr., who once said, “Industry is the enemy of melancholy.”