We’re constantly being exhorted to be mindful, be in the moment, be here now! For some of us, bringing our complete attention to the present experience can seem like a luxury as we simultaneously text, email, and file, all while scarfing a protein bar at our desk. Plus, it’s natural for our minds to time-travel, as we ruminate over past events or make plans for the future. Sure it’s important to reflect on where we’ve been and create a blueprint for where we want to go. But science is proving that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.
Researcher Matt Killingsworth, who studies the nature and causes of human happiness, found that staying in the moment truly does lead to greater contentment. Makes sense to me, if the moment I’m staying in involves reclining on a beach chair with a good book and a tropical drink. But he found that even when doing the most mundane tasks, like commuting, we’re happier when we stay focused on the present moment. He also found that mind-wandering causes unhappiness, not the other way around. In other words, unhappiness does not precede mind-wandering.
So next time you catch your mind time-traveling, draw your awareness back to the present, fully engaging in whatever you’re doing. Hopefully, it involves a beautiful beach, engrossing read and refreshing drink.