I am currently reading Ram Dass’ book entitled ‘Still Here’ written a decade ago it has just again come up to the top of my pile of books. When Colleen saw it she said they should have titled it “Still Here Now”. I agree and it made me think of the importance of ‘being in the Now, and how current research has explained and expanded on Ram Dass’ ground breaking work of more than 40 years ago.
Dr. Daniel Gilbert the Harvard professor and author of Stumbling into Happiness just did some research using an Iphone app, that let people record the percent of time their thoughts strayed from their endeavors. On average through the quarter-million responses minds were wandering 47% of the time. In discussing his surprise at the results Dr. Gilbert who has a great sense of humor stated “I find it kind of weird now to look down a crowded street and realize that half the people aren’t really there”.
The bottom line of their research is that people tended to be happier and more content if they focused on the activity instead of thinking about something else. In fact, whether and where their minds wandered was a better predictor of happiness than what they were doing. As Dr. Gilbert says, “the location of the body is much less important than the location of the mind, and the former has surprisingly little influence on the latter”.
Over the several months of the iPhone study, the more frequent mind-wanderers remained less happy than the rest. Dr. Gilbert and his co-researcher Matthew Killingsworth investigated cause and effect. Could the mind-wandering be a consequence rather than a cause of unhappiness? The result, “We see evidence for mind-wandering causing unhappiness, but no evidence for unhappiness causing mind-wandering’.
In my next post I will discuss some techniques to reduce mind-wandering by increasing mindfulness.