Wandering Mind, Unhappy State

Does your mind often wander off during the day? I know mine does.  I call it distraction, but I could also call it mind-wandering! That is why meditation is so hard for me. It seems like, no matter how hard I try not to have any, thoughts keep racing through my mind. Well, a study has shown that this characteristic of my personality might contribute to my unhappiness!

Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert, two psychologists from Harvard University came up with the brilliant idea of using an IPhone application as the principal research tool for a study on happiness that was published last November in the Science Journal.

This iPhone application, created by Killingsworth, randomly asked 2,250 volunteers from all over the world at different intervals of the day what their level of happiness was, what they were doing and what they were thinking about.

Killingsworth and Gilbert found that people were happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer.

The results also showed that people’s minds wandered a lot, regardless of what they were doing: people reported letting their minds wander 46.9% of the time, and at least 30% of the time during every activity except having sex.

The study showed that mind-wandering was actually a predictor of people’s happiness more than the actual activities people were engaged in.

The researchers estimated that only 4.6 percent of a person’s happiness in a given moment was attributable to the specific activity he or she was doing, whereas whether or not a person was wandering determined about 10.8 percent of his or her happiness.

Many philosophical and psychological schools of thought, believe that happiness starts by living in the present moment.  Now, a study has shown the validity of that statement.  So, maybe when your mind wanders off while you’re in the middle of cooking, it is worth bringing it back to the task at hand.  It could make you happier… and, perhaps,  also prevent you from burning yourself or messing up the recipe!

The author is Alina Boutros, who owns a University Master’s Degree in Literary Studies, has been researching happiness for the past year. You can read her daily posts on http://alina-500daystohappiness.blogspot.com


  1. My mind wanders a lot when I’m at rest. I have difficulty focusing when there are noises or activities around me. I certainly can’t read very well in public. So, here finally is a study that confirms the wisdom of living in the present. That makes it even more imperative for me to continue meditating.

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