Wandering Minds Can’t Find Their Ways To Happiness, Here’s Why And What You Can Do

Human mind is imaginative. A Harvard study shows that our mind wanders for almost 12 hours a day on average.[1] No matter you are a nostalgic person or a dreamer, your wandering mind never rests. It brings you back to the good old memories or brings you far to dreamy fantasies: the days when you were a little kid with nothing to worry about or one day you will retire from work to enjoy life.

But sooner or later, you will realize that a gap which can’t be bridged exists between what we think and the reality. This cruel truth always makes us unhappy with the reality we are in.

A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind

A wandering mind is a hotbed of negative and vain thoughts. The Harvard study reveals that wandering minds are directly related to happiness, to be more specific, a wandering mind is not a happy mind.

“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.” – Killingsworth and Gilbert, Psychologists of Harvard University

The research shows that despite the fact that people might be thinking about some neutral or pleasant things, they are still less happy than those who don’t wander at all.

Keep Your Mind Occupied in the State of Flow

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a notable psychologist in positive psychology, suggests the idea of state of flow by saying that when someone is extremely concentrated on a specific activity, one’s mind is fully occupied because the human nervous system is incapable of processing too much information. [2] Entering the flow state prevents your mind wandering and it is the way to achieve happiness.

Let’s say you are a musician trying to write a piece of music. It is not hard to imagine that your mind will be fully occupied with musical notes and you have no room to think about what to eat for lunch. All of your worries and concerns are drifted away and you don’t even realize the passage of time. Even the smallest thing, such as listening to someone speak or watching a movie, might allow you to enter the state of flow.

But as mentioned previously, our minds spend a lot of time wandering. So how can we spend less time wandering and enter the state of flow?

Entering the State of Flow Is Like Riding a Bike!

Pick a route you enjoy

When you ride a bike, your journey becomes more enjoyable if you pick the routes you like. To enter the state of flow, you should also find one thing interesting in the task you’re going to work on. It is not uncommon that people get their hands dirty immediately without realizing the fascinating parts of whatever they do. It is very unlikely that they can enter the state of flow without seeing something intriguing.

Spare Time To Warm Up

Everything takes time, riding a bike and entering the state of flow also take time. Before riding a bike, you need to do some warm up exercises and stretching for at least 15 minutes in order to get yourself ready for an exciting ride. Your mind is similar. Your mind needs some time to get into the state, and it takes even longer for you to be fully immersed, so you need to be patient. You might not be able to enter the state of flow in the first few minutes but you have to wait for a bit longer until your mind is warmed up. Once you have entered the state of flow, you won’t realize the passage of time.

Keep the Wheels Rolling Till the End

You can’t stop to keep the wheels rolling. When you stop applying force, the bike will eventually stop and you can’t go on with your journey. Entering the state of flow wouldn’t allow you to stop in the middle as well. You need to be clear on what you want to achieve and thus you’ll know what you are working for, like you should know your direction and destination while riding a bike. Losing the directions makes us distracted by other things easily and then it would be quite impossible for us to get into the zone.

Entering the state of flow, or in other words, being mindful is the first step to the road of true happiness. Happiness doesn’t come from the good old days you once had, the reality that you are currently in, or the golden future that you have been dreaming about. Happiness is a state of mind.

Reference

[1] Harvard Gazette: Wandering mind not a happy mind
[2] Daring to Live Fully: How to enter the flow state

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