Aidan’s Infinite Play 10 Is Mind Wandering Ruining Your Happiness?

Aidan’s Infinite Play 10 Is Mind Wandering Ruining Your Happiness?
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros / Unsplash

Hello players!

Everyone has experienced moments during the day where their mind drift offs to activities other than the one at hand. One moment you're reading a text sent by one of your friends and the next your thinking about what you're going to have for lunch.

Sometimes your mind drifts off to more long term uncertain things like thoughts about your career, your financial situation, and how in goodness gracious you will explain to your parents the $200 dollars spent on peanut butter for last months credit card charge.

This mind wandering seems harmless enough, but after I read a study by Killingsworth and Gilbert (2010), I'm realizing mind wandering plays a lot larger of a role in our happiness than we think.

Let me explain.

Through the use of a smart phone technology, Killingsworth and Gilbert were able to sample 2250 adults through experience sampling methods. Participants installed an app on their phone that randomly pinged them throughout their days.

When pinged, they answered how they were feeling, what they were doing, and if they were thinking about something else than what they were currently doing.

There were three illuminating findings.

The Three Findings

First, the nature of people's activities only had modest impact on if their minds wandered and almost no impact on the pleasantness of the activity.

People's mind wandered in any activity whether they were answering emails, running, or writing a report. Of course, if the activity fell in peoples Goldilocks zone, the zone in which the activity you are doing or about to do is not so easy it's boring, but not so hard it's frustrating, then their mind wandered less.

But sadly the vast majority of activities people invest themselves in throughout their day don't fall in this zone and therefore people are prone to mind wandering inside of them.

The reason the activity didn't have much impact on the enjoyability of the experience is illuminated by the second major finding. On average people were significantly less happy while thinking about something else than the activity they intended to be doing.

No matter the activity if people reported they were thinking about something else while doing it, they didn't find it as enjoyable as if their attention was invested inside of it.

This idea is added onto by the third major finding: even if the activity they were doing was enjoyable or not enjoyable mind wandering was predictive of less happy moods. In effects, what people were thinking during an activity was a better predictor of mood than the activity itself.

Think about that.

These results imply that even while doing an activity you enjoy, if you aren't present while doing it you won't enjoy it as much. On the opposite, if you try your hardest to be fully present while doing something you don't enjoy, you might be able to find some enjoyment none the less.

By understanding the way mind wandering affects how you experience an activity, I believe we can increase the quality of our everyday lives.

I intend to explore how we might be able to do so in future newsletters and articles on gamification, mindfulness, the flow state.

Here's what I would like to share this week.

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