Are You Happy? Study Uses Iphone To Track Happiness

Daydreaming at work

Do you often find your mind wandering, rambling through thoughts, worries and daydreams? The question is do these wandering thoughts have a positive or negative impact on your overall happiness. Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert from Harvard University decided to find some answers by creating an iPhone app to track people’s happiness as it relates to daydreaming. The results showed a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.

There were already many studies measuring how often a person’s mind wanders while focused on a particular task; the challenge was to actually get inside people’s heads during their everyday lives.  Their tech solution was to build an iPhone app and put it in the hands of 5,000 people. The app solved the problem of getting subjects to respond to situations in the moment. It would randomly query the user to measure what they were doing, whether their mind was wandering and measure their happiness at that moment.

The rate of mind wandering was even higher than previous studies in laboratory conditions, with the average person suggesting they were thinking about something other than what they were doing almost half the cases and during at least 30 percent of all activities except one. In addition people were less happy when they reported their minds wandering.

Mind wandering was highest during activities such as work, using a computer and commuting that also correlated to higher levels of unhappiness. Mind wandering was low and happiness high during activities such as listening to music, having a conversation and exercising.

Finally, and most fascinating, was that the better predictor of happiness was what they were thinking not what they were doing. The variance in the activities and the mind wandering suggested that the two influence happiness independently and the mind will trump the activity, especially when the mind is preoccupied with unhappy thoughts. Although happy thoughts were reported more often during mind-wandering, there was a small increase related to overall happiness in context of the activity reported. People however, were much more likely to be influenced by neutral or unhappy thoughts into a state of unhappiness even when engaged in pleasurable activities.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the one activity reported with the significantly lowest percentage of mind-wandering and highest happiness was making love.

Further proof that a one track mind is the path to happiness. If you want to try it for yourself go to Track Your Happiness.

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