The power of daydreams: 4 studies on the surprising science of mind-wandering

greg725:

Yes the ability to have our mind stray from the present moment is an amazing ability. While the research shows that mind-wandering correlates to unhappiness, I believe there is a flip side to that coin. My mind-wandering is generally something that is done subconsciously, without true focus or intent. However when I bring intention and focus to my mind-wandering, I tend to be much happier during my daydreaming. My wife tells me that that’s more along the lines of meditating, and while I may not reach the depths of meditation I get to during those designated meditating times I guess I have to agree with her. Which presents me with two questions, is the difference between happy mind-wandering and unhappiness focus? And if so how do we increase the level of focus so that people can be happy presently and when they take a break from reality?

Originally posted on TED Blog:

What makes us happy? It’s one of the most complicated puzzles of human existence — and one that, so far, 87 speakers have explored in TEDTalks.

In today’s talk, Matt Killingsworth (who studied under Dan Gilbert at Harvard) shares a novel approach to the study of happiness — an app, Track Your Happiness, which allows people to chart their feelings on a moment-by-moment basis. As they go about their day, app users get random pings, asking them to share their current activity and note their mood. When Killingsworth gave this talk at TEDxCambridge in 2011, the app had collected data from more than 15,000 people in 80 countries, representing a wide range of ages, education levels and occupations. In this talk, Killingsworth reveals a very surprising finding: that mind-wandering appears to factor heavily into this happiness equation.

“As human beings, we have this unique ability to have…

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Comments

  1. KingVeganTally says:

    Very interesting. It seems to me, that aside from intentional meditation, the mind’s subconscious mind wandering is a built-in mechanism to relax (say, from incessant thinking). Generally in the present moment of Happiness, there isn’t too much thinking going on, just feeling and absorbing the pleasurable moment as much as you can. In this highly physical state where mental activity is at a minimum, the mind is relaxed and there is no need to venture into mind wandering. The exact opposite is the case when one does not desire to feel the physical sensations of unpleasant present moments (the focus is directed away from the body towards the mind). This can provide the escape from the stress, boredom, or worry that is present in a lot of people’s every day lives.

    Perhaps those known to daydream aren’t necessarily unhappy with the present moment, but at any given time doesn’t have anything to excite their interest enough to focus on, so they tap out until something more interesting presents itself (I guess that would be in line with boredom). But their mind is pulling them towards what they feel is a more pleasurable state of existence. . ?

    I say this to say: It seems like a very difficult task to quantify this kind of data into an accurate correlation (between mind wandering and level of unhappiness). Whereas some might mind wander to a state of pleasure, others may be mind wandering towards more stress, more worry, or anticipation of events of the future that they feel pressured to deal with. (I’m sure mind wandering for them brings more unhappiness).

    “is the difference between happy mind-wandering and unhappiness focus?” – It could very well be! My question is: What are people spending their time focusing on (consciously and subconsciously)? Happy thoughts or Unhappy thoughts?

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