There’s an ongoing study happening using the power of smart phones. Yep, finally someone’s using these things for good! (The only reason I say that is because I still don’t have one, otherwise I’m sure I would think that everything you do with them is for the good of humanity).
The study is an interesting one. It’s called Track Your Happiness, and they have an app that goes off periodically and asks people what they’re doing, if they enjoy that activity, what they’re thinking about, and how they’re feeling. Before anyone starts worrying about the validity of using an iPhone app for a psychological experiment, I’ll point out that before smart phones existed, researches have been giving people pagers or other devices that go off at random intervals and ask them to do something (usually, like this one, to record what they’re doing and their mood, or something along those lines). While there are some drawbacks to the technique, it is a great way to get in-the-moment data from the real lives of your participants, as opposed to asking them how they would theoretically feel in a hypothetical situation.
What they found in this study is that regardless of what people were doing – if it was something they enjoyed or not – they were the happiest when they were thinking about what they were doing in that moment. Happier even than if people were thinking about something else that was positive; distracting themselves from an unpleasant task by thinking about something they enjoyed.
So being in the moment, being present in whatever you’re doing at the time, will leave you happier than daydreaming about the future or mulling over the past.
To me this is one of these sort of magical scientific discoveries that uncovers some of the other-worldly power our minds truly have. The act of being present in your body, in your activity, and in the moment, is an act that will increase your happiness! It makes sense when you think about it – when you think about the past or daydream about the future, what you’re telling yourself is that the present isn’t good enough. That it’s not interesting or fun or challenging enough for you, which by extension means that to a degree you are not interesting or fun or challenging enough. On the other hand, focusing on the task at hand tells your brain that what you’re doing has some kind of value and therefore that you are valuable for doing it. It also makes you more likely to do a good job, another recipe for increased happiness.
So give it a shot! Next time you find yourself daydreaming about something other than what you’re doing, direct your mind back to the task at hand. A great place to try this out, of course, is your yoga practice. Holding an unpleasant pose is the perfect time to send your mind far, far away from yourself, but what happens if you stick with it? Where will you end up?