Quick — what are you thinking about? If your thoughts have strayed from this post, then you’re a) not alone, b) not as happy as you would be if you concentrated, and c) definitely not as happy as you would be if you were having sex. Or at least that’s what a group of Harvard psychologists found when they researched the correlation between wandering thoughts and happiness.
Using an iPhone app called Track Your Happiness, researchers contacted subjects at random intervals to find out what they were doing, what they were thinking about, and how they felt. Overall, they collected about a quarter of a million data points from over 2,000 subjects in an attempt to find out what makes people feel the best. Not surprisingly, subjects were happiest during sex (and unhappiest when working, commuting, and grooming themselves). But when it comes to overall happiness, concentration trumps activity, according to their findings.
Subjects’ thoughts wandered from their activities about 47% of the time, on average. Of course, different activities inspired different concentration levels — thoughts wandered up to 65% of the time during times of personal grooming; during sex, they only strayed 10% of the time. But overall, whether having sex or trimming their nails, subjects reported being less happy if their minds were off-task, while those concentrated on their present activities reported higher morale.
Now if only there were an app to help us concentrate…