TED Talks with Matt Killingsworth
Don’t you love TED Talks? Amazingly insightful people sharing their ideas on a variety of topics in a concise 10 or 20 minute talk. Awesome!
Matt Killingsworth has one on the ever popular topic of happiness. Specifically, our level of happiness in correlation with mind wandering. Sounds random, I know. Ok, substitute the words “mind wandering” for the word “awareness”. That sounds more familiar, right?
While mind wandering and lack of awareness are the same thing, we definitely hear and see more on the subject of awareness. Deepak Chopra is one of my favorite authors. He has written upward of 50 books, on a diverse selection of subjects, and the crux of it all boils down to awareness. The more in the moment you are, the healthier, less stressed, productive, connected, and (yes) happier you are.
Living in the moment can do all that? Sounds pretty simple, but we all know how impossibly difficult it can be. While Deepak offers lots of wisdom and information on achieving this state of mind (50 some books-worth…c’mon), most of us still struggle to attain that sense of being in the moment.
Doubt that lack of awareness can bring unhappiness? Let’s take a closer look at Matt’s research. He started Track Your Happiness.org in order to see just how much mind wandering has to do with happiness, or lack of. You can sign up to participate in this program which tracks your happiness/mind wandering levels by using your iPhone. Answer some statistical questions, report by text or email how you feel and what you are up to (how often is up to you), and the report tells you how happy you are depending on several factors, like what you are doing, who you are doing it with, time of day…
During these reports participants are asked whether or not their mind is wandering. If they are fully engaged in what they are doing, the answer is No. If they are thinking about something other than what they are doing, the answer would be a Yes, followed by whether the stuff they are thinking about is pleasant, neutral, or bad.
What’s interesting is that Matt found that even for those who consider their distraction pleasant, they still feel less happy than when completely in the moment. Those whose thoughts are neutral generally feel a little less happy than the pleasant mind wanderers, and (as you’d suspect) those thinking bad thoughts are the most unhappy.
As a matter of fact, this study found that most of us are distracted around 47% of the time. That is a lot, considering we are working, driving, and making decisions for the majority of our day.
So, we get that awareness is key to happiness. Now how do we make that happen?
Breathing is a key component in awareness. Tap into your breathing. Don’t try to control it, just pay attention to it. It is always what you are doing right now. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath. I can tell you, as a professional mind wanderer, practice goes a long way to incorporating this into your daily living.
A great meditation/exercise to try is the good ol’ So hum. So hum has been around a long time, and for good reason. It really does help to get you focused, grounded, and calm. Give it a try.
Do you feel that you live in the moment most of the time? Or does your mind tend to wander?
[Image by 2Vermin Inc at Flickr.com, Creative Commons license]