Way To Happiness Rediscovered Through Science
Eons ago, the Zen masters said that to be happy you must live in the moment 'NOW.' This indeed is the gist of Zen philosophy, the rest is mere commentary. And so did pronounce the Indian rishis thousands of years back in Vedas and Puranas, now a fresh voice has just been added to those age-old masters' discourses—the voice of an young American psychologist, Matthew Killingsworth, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Harvard.
Killingsworth, and Daniel T. Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, used a special "track your happiness" iPhone app to gather research on 2250 participants. The results of the study confirms, we spend at least half our time thinking about something other than what we are doing at that moment, and this makes us unhappy.
Dr. Gilbert raised the question, “Which would make you happier: winning the lottery, or losing the ability to walk? It may seem like a no-brainier, but the answer may surprise you.” Gilbert said that research demonstrates, one year later, the paraplegics are just about as happy as lottery winners. How does this happen? The answer is that happiness is all in our minds, as the spiritualists have said it all along.
According to Matthew, multitasking raises our stress level, in other words, if we are playing golf and thinking about last night's party at our friend's place where we had a gala time, despite our indulgence in the happy memories, our game is going to suffer since our stress level is bound to increase.
Any wonder why our lives are so stressful?
Matthew published his research findings in the journal Science where he says: How often people's minds wander is definitely a big predictor of who's happy and who's not happy, because the more often they take themselves out of the present moment, the less happy they are. He went on to maintain that even if we time share with pleasant daydreams, it makes us unhappy.
The guinea pigs for this study were iPhone wielding volunteers, whose average age was 34. The researchers used the specially developed iPhone app for their experiment that called the volunteers several times a day and asked them a few standard questions such as: how they were feeling just before they were contacted, what they were doing, and if they were thinking about something else other than what they were doing. More than 5,000 people are now using the iPhone Web app.
The study found that even when people perform seemingly unpleasant tasks such as running errands or doing a monotonous routine, their unhappiness level increases as they shift their focus from the tasks at hand. People often indulge in daydreams in unpleasant or neutral topics, and as expected those thoughts are likely to increase the level of unhappiness, however, what surprised the researcher was the fact that even pleasurable thoughts made participants no happier than when they were focused on the activity they were performing, whatever the activity may be.Continued on the next page