Are we happier day dreaming about fairy castles, or focusing on the work at hand?

At first thought, fantasizing about fairy castles sounds lovely. Much nicer than effort-focused concentrating aka meditation.  Guess what? Scientists have proven that we are much happier when focusing.

Want proof? How about a research study by Harvard psychologists? Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert created an iPhone App that contacted 2,250 volunteers at random intervals to ask if they felt happy, what they were doing, and whether they were thinking about their current activity (focusing) or thinking about something else that was pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant (day dreaming).

After 650,000 real-time happiness reports they reached a conclusion. Killingsworth reports that “People are less happy when they’re mind-wandering no matter what they’re doing. For example, people don’t really like commuting to work very much; it’s one of their least enjoyable activities. Yet people are substantially happier when they’re focused only on their commute than when their mind is wandering off to something else. This pattern holds for every single activity we measured.”

“Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” Killingsworth says. “In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”

The Harvard psychologists found a whopping 46.9 percent of our waking hours are spent thinking about something other than what we’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes us unhappy.

Here is a link to read more about their methodology and the research study as published by the Harvard Gazette:
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/ 

Interested in tracking your happiness? The iPhone App is still available at:
http://www.trackyourhappiness.org

Image Source:
http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?25998-fantasy-castle