Does Mind-Wandering Affect Our Happiness?

Posted on by Austin Condiff

Have you ever been doing something and notice that you are on auto-pilot and not really thinking about the present task? We all have been there, and we do more often than we want to admit. Sometimes we are thinking of a past vacation we’ve been on, or what we are doing that night for dinner, even future responsibilities. But do these things really make us happier?

In a study done to determine when humans are the most happy, Matt Killingsworth built an app, Track Your Happiness, that let people report their feelings in real time. The question he was attempting to answer was, are we the happiest when our minds wander or are we less happy.

In a TED talk given in November of 2012 (Filmed at TEDxCambridge), Killingsworth tells us that on average, according to his studies, mind wandering in fact results in less happiness. He then poses the question, is mind wandering the cause of unhappiness or is unhappiness the cause of our mind-wandering. He says that we know that time moves forwards and not backwards, and that there is a strong indication that after mind-wandering, we tend to be less happy shortly after. There is, however no evidence that unhappiness causes mind-wandering.

“Mind-wandering is likely a cause, and not merely a consequence, of mind-wandering.”

– Matt Killingsworth


So in short, as we are in more control of our minds and are able think about your current tasks, we are more likely to have a happier life. Just a little food for thought.