For thousands of years, people have been trying to understand the causes of happiness. What is it that makes people happy? Yet it wasn’t until very recently that science has turned its attention to this issue.
Track Your Happiness is a new scientific research project that aims to use modern technology to help answer this age-old question.
A wandering mind is an unhappy mind
The Track Your Happiness research project uses smartphones to monitor happiness levels in real time. It’s identified a clear relationship between mind-wandering or having scattered attention and unhappiness.
The more our mind wanders, the less happy we can be. The flip side is that we're often happiest when we're lost in the moment.
The research data suggests our minds wander from the task at hand at least 30% of the time, and that when our minds wander we often think about unpleasant things like our worries, our anxieties, and our regrets.
In the 'zone'? You’re half way there!
We all have times when we ‘enjoy getting lost’ in doing something. Whether you’re in the garden, playing guitar, or perfecting a haiku, there are moments we all have when time just flies by. When you’re doing something you enjoy your mind tends to be fully focused on the fun you’re having. This ‘in the zone’ state of mind is called ‘flow’.
While flow can be considered a first step towards mindfulness, they’re still quite different. Mindfulness requires you to be aware of your thoughts and feelings, whereas flow involves being focused on ‘doing’ a task (often with no reflection on what else is happening in that moment).