A study by Harvard researchers indicates that the more you daydream the less likely you are to be happy. And, it comes as no surprise that people’s minds are wandering about 47% of the time. That’s almost half of your waking hours.
When we’re lost in thought this means we’re lost in primarily negative and habitual thinking patterns about the past or the future. If you’re caught in the past, it’s often depressing. If you’re caught in the future, it’s often anxiety-provoking. Every time I teach this in one of my classes I can see people nodding their heads in agreement. We often think we are unique, but our minds are basically alike due to having the same survival and other physiological response mechanisms.
Being engaged in any activity will result in you being happier. Put another way, the more mindful and conscious you are as you go about your daily activities, the better you would feel. So, being present for the world around you in “real time” instead of lost in thought would create a happier you.
I particularly noticed this today as I was traveling across the country to visit my niece. Sitting in the plane on the second leg of my air travel, I suddenly realized my mind had been running a scenario over and over of a situation at work that hadn’t even happened yet and trying to find a solution. As the future drama ensued (in my mind), I felt more and more uncomfortable and anxious. Waking up to the time warp in my mind, I re-calibrated to the present. Sitting in the airplane. Breathing. Young woman watching a video in the seat next to me. Seat belt sign on. I felt fine. Life was okay. Hey, it’s pretty great. I’m on vacation! Oh yeah!
This is what happens. We get caught in thought, and we lose touch with reality. If you were able to add up whether you were okay or not in each successive moment of your life in one average day, I would venture to guess you would discover it is mostly fine. But when you’re caught in mindless thinking you convince yourself you’re not. Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is, says “all stress comes from believing a thought that argues with reality.”
Wake up to what’s really happening as much as you can and notice what happens. Mark Twain said it best, “I have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which have never happened.” Deal with the misfortunes when they actually do happen (and they will), but don’t waste the rest of your life on the imagined ones. Be happy!