Happiness: Increasing yours is not a daydream

It seems happiness must be found in daydreams since we frequently daydream to fight boredom, figure ourselves out, and prepare for the future. A study done by Harvard University disagrees. Photo: mindfulness (flickr)

WASHINGTON October 20, 2012 - It seems that even when listening to music, working on a craft, enjoying a walk, or a conversation our thinking mind spends up to 70% of that time daydreaming, or wandering away from what we are doing (presidential debates excluded?). This is not to say that all daydreaming is useless, but it does have consequences. 

Daydreaming does not make you happier, even if you daydream about pleasant or enjoyable things; daydream about negative things and your level of happiness will decrease 15 minutes after the daydream. This is the conclusion of a study done by Harvard University. 

It seems people who feel happy more of the time are those that stay focused on the task at hand, or on the present moment. This is what meditators have been saying for about a billion centuries, and research keeps backing it up. 

Those who meditate regularly can turn off, or disconnect from, areas of the brain active during daydreaming. Over time, they become masters at monitoring their thoughts, whether meditating or unloading a dishwasher. 

It is possible meditators have rewired their brain, creating a default setting that keeps their thoughts primarily in the present moment instead of being centered around the self. This makes sense when you think about the connection between meditation, tranquility, and compassion. 

Those of us that do not practice mindfulness or other form of meditation have a brain default setting that favors thoughts related to the self. While this does not make the self a negative, thinking continually about the self is typically a downward spiral. 

The perks of staying in the moment are the elimination of anxious thoughts about future events we have no control over and getting distance from our emotions and thoughts. With distance we realize how transient they are, that experiencing feelings and thoughts are not an indication of their validity. 

A quiet mind also opens the door to reason, a necessary addition to our emotions and feelings if we want to live with wisdom. 

Mindfulness meditation is not a religion or ideology. It is a respectful and gentle way of learning to keep your awareness where you choose to put it. Then, you can engage your mind to promote your own and others’ well being. 

You might even wonder how much of the self is a daydream.



AAAS: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/330/6006/932.abstract
Yale News: http://news.yale.edu/2011/11/21/tuning-out-how-brains-benefit-meditation


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Jacqueline Marshall

Jacqueline Marshall is a writer for Help For Depression, and freelances primarily in the areas of psychology and personal development. She has a MA in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed therapist living near Chicago.

Jacqueline has experience helping those diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness, and in providing general therapy services for individuals, couples, and families. Prior to counseling, she worked in graphic design and music education.

When not writing or counseling, Jacqueline enjoys reading literature and math-less books about quantum physics. She is a published poet, and has studied animal communication and energy healing.  


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