News

Many unhappy returns for wandering minds

When thoughts roam, unpleasant feelings often follow

By
2:08pm, November 11, 2010

A wandering mind often stumbles downhill emotionally. People spend nearly half their waking lives thinking about stuff other than what they’re actually doing, and these imaginary rambles frequently feel bad, according to a new study that surveyed volunteers at random times via their iPhones.

People’s minds wander at least 30 percent of the time during all activities except sex, say graduate student Matthew Killingsworth and psychologist Daniel Gilbert, both of Harvard University. Individuals feel considerably worse when their minds wander to unpleasant or neutral topics, as opposed to focusing on current pursuits, Killingsworth and Gilbert report in the Nov. 12 Science.

These new findings jibe with philosophical and religious teachings that assert happiness is found by living in the moment and learning to resist mind wandering, Killingsworth says.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.

More from Science News