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Proof that you should live in the present

A few years ago I wrote a blog post arguing that it’s important that we live in the present. Regret, anxiety and a wandering mind are tools in the devil’s hand. Now this scientific article backs that up. I’ve excerpted a portion of it.   We spend nearly 47 percent of our waking hours think…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
A few years ago I wrote a blog post arguing that it’s important that we live in the present. Regret, anxiety and a wandering mind are tools in the devil’s hand. Now this scientific article backs that up. I’ve excerpted a portion of it.
 
We spend nearly 47 percent of our waking hours thinking about something other than what’s happening in front of us. Moreover, they write in the journal Science, this lack of focus tends to make us less happy.

“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert conclude. “The ability to think about what isn’t happening is a significant cognitive achievement, but one that comes at an emotional cost.”

Volunteers who signed up at the website www.trackyourhappiness.org were contacted at least once a day and asked to respond to a variety of questions about their feelings, thoughts, behavior and environment. After 50 such responses were collected from an individual, sampling stopped for six months, or until the participant requested it be reinstated.

“The frequency of mind-wandering in our real-world sample was considerably higher than is typically seen in laboratory experiments,” they note. “Surprisingly, the nature of people’s activities had only a modest impact on whether their minds wandered.”

So, where was I? Oh, yes: Happiness. “People were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not,” Killingsworth and Gilbert write. “This was true during all activities, including the least enjoyable.

“Although people’s minds were more likely to wander to pleasant topics … people were no happier when thinking about pleasant topics than about their current activity, and were considerably unhappier when thinking about neutral topics or unpleasant topics.”

“Time-lag analyses strongly suggests that mind-wandering in our sample was generally the cause – and not merely the consequence – of unhappiness,” they write. “A person’s happiness was strongly related to whether they had been mind-wandering in the previous sample, but was unrelated to whether they were mind-wandering in the next sample. This is precisely what one would expect if mind-wandering caused unhappiness.”

The wisdom of “be here now” is backed up by hard data.

“Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” Killingsworth told the Harvard public affairs and communications office. “In fact, how often our minds leave the present, and where they tend to go, is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”

 

Comments (5)

  • This is fascinating; and great affirmation of my new normal, living truly in the present, caring for my family, my mom primarily, who interestingly enough, is quite happy. My comment has been to others that her cognitive changes have left her living truly in the moment. Well, what a blessing! She isn’t haunted by past griefs or regrets, because most of them have faded, and following sequential thinking that would project her too far ahead are beyond her grasp right now, yet in the moment she is lucid, funny, conversant and happy. All this for a woman whose persona in the past was driven largely by bitterness, un-forgiveness, anxiety and a host of other negative reactions.
    And, in turn, it has brought me to the present as well.

  • Good stuff- this is often a struggle for me, but I absolutely agree with what is written here.

    When I am having trouble dwelling on what is not here and now, I have to speak it out loud- rebuke the demonic factors- and pray out loud.

    A good hard workout also seems to clear the mind.

  • **mArC** The Schifano Tribe

    “Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” Killingsworth told the Harvard public affairs and communications office. “In fact, how often our minds leave the present, and where they tend to go, is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”

    The here, and now. Love this. “Stop thinking about it so much, and act.” Word from God, while reading this. Thanks Seth.

  • What the excerpts don’t say is whether we should be satisfied with where we are or stop thinking about where we are not and do what we need to get there!

    I know that is the question on which much hinges right now in my life.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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