Friday, November 12, 2010

Present Moment Happy Moment

Matt Killingsworth reports in the current issue of Science that happiness and a focus on the present moment are closely associated. In his ongoing study, the Harvard doctoral student uses an iPhone app to track the happiness of about 2,500 participants who agree to be interrupted several times a day and report on their activities, there degree of "mind wandering" (i.e, how focused they are on what they are doing), and how happy they are. People reported the highest level of happiness, and the lowest degree of mind wandering, when they were having sex. No surprise there, I guess. More revelatory, though, was the high association between happiness and less ecstatic  activities that require subjects to be "in the moment." When our minds wander, we tend to be less happy. When we're paying attention to what we're doing and where we are, we tend to be happier. And Killingsworth found that mind wandering more often than not precedes a dip in happiness, he said on today's Science Friday, suggesting--but hardly proving--a causal relationship. It may not be the most rigorous study around, but participants might at least learn a thing or two about what activities are associated with their own happiness. After every 50 text replies to its queries, the lab sends you a report on your own activities and associated levels of happiness. You can join the study, long as you're an iPhoner, at 

Update: on Tuesday Nov 16 the Science Times' John Tierney did an interesting story on the same study.

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