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.
📸News From The Channel!
Watch This to Finally Understand The Zettelkasten Method in Obsidian: By the end of this video, you will have a concrete zettelkasten system and workflow to use in Obsidian. You will understand the history, benefits, and practicalities of using a Zettelkasten, as well as the philosophy behind it so you can transform your system and process to fit your needs. I will take you through an overview of my entire zettelkasten Obsidian workflow. I'm will show you how I capture, organize, distill, and express information.
Rachel Madrigal: From Chronic Notetaker to Minimalist Obsidian User: Rachel Madrigal is a Software Engineer turned product manager at Twingate and part-time YouTuber who creates vlog and Obsidian content. She’s also a friend because we meet weekly for our YouTube accountability meetings. This week, we talked about Rachel's work as a software engineer and experience switching to product management, how notetaking is helping her in both careers, and her experience becoming a more minimalist Obsidian user.
Demian: we read this book for my first book club meeting at Cornell. It's an incredible book about spiritual awakening and development. I recommend it to anyone who has gone through a self improvement phase in their life. You can read my book summary to prime yourself before reading it for yourself!
💡My Best Insights:
📖Book - The Untethered Soul: this is my second read of this book and it once again stands the test of time. There are so many amazing ideas but here are some of the highlights. You are not your thoughts, feelings, emotions, or beliefs but rather the experiencer behind everything. By learning to understand this and actionalize it you can tap into the vast reservoir of inner energy inside of you. And then through becoming spiritually awakened and practicing the middle way you can learn to bring the spiritual practice to others thus helping them make their own journeys. Read the book to learn more!
✍️Blog Post -The Five Tools of Hedonic Design: The Hedonic treadmill is a metaphor for the human tendency to pursue one pleasurable activity after another. This occurs despite the fact that humans tend to adapt to positive and negative changes in their lives and revert back to a baseline level of happiness. This article discusses five ways that we can get past this tendency by fighting against adaptation to make our average day better.
🎙️Podcast - Dr. Layne Norton: The Science of Eating for Health, Fat Loss & Lean Muscle | Episode 97: I have been interested in nutrition science for around two years and learned a ton of things I didn't know through this podcast. Some of the things you might find useful are the mindset of healthy eating, changing your identity to sleep, exercise, and eat more healthily, and how to diet effectively.
📺YouTube Video - Millennium Actress What Does it Mean to Chase a Dream? In Depth Analysis: an analysis of a fantastic Japanese film exploring what it means to chase a dream. Some of the major themes it grapples with are failure, goals, and the concept of journey before destination. My brother does a great job analyzing it and adding humor. Give it a watch!