New Research Shows That Mindfulness Is the Secret to Happiness

New research is shedding light on the pursuit of happiness—and most of us have been looking in all the wrong places. It turns out, happiness is not found in external things at all, but is a power we hold within ourselves.

Harvard researcher Matt Killingsworth created an app in attempts to answer the question “what makes us happy?” once and for all, and the results have been an eye-opener. According to Mr. Killingworth’s data, we’re happiest when we are mindful of the moment, and we’re least happy when the mind is wandering.

This study took a large sampling of 15,000 individuals. The sampling was diverse—it included people across the socio-economic stratosphere, of varying levels of education, age, occupation, incomes, marital status and across 80 countries.

The premise was simple: throughout the day, at random times, participants were contacted through their phones and asked to rate their current happiness level, what activity they were involved in when the call came, and whether or not their mind was wandering from the activity.

As it turned out, what made people happy had far less to do with what they were doing and significantly more to do with whether their attention was fully present in the moment.

People who focused on their present moment experience (in other words, people who were being mindful’) were significantly happier than people whose minds wandered away from the moment.

You might assume that people who let their minds wander to happy thoughts would have been happy right?—and it is true that people whose minds wandered to happy thoughts were slightly better off than those whose minds wandered to worries or regrets. But people letting their minds wander to pleasant things were still not as happy as people who kept their minds in the moment.

Even if the activity at hand was deemed unpleasant, people were still happier when they engaged their attention fully in the now.

There is plenty of previous research that supports Killingsworth’s findings. We know for instance, that money doesn’t make us happy. Studies have shown that as long as basic needs, such as food and shelter are met, additional wealth and material goods have little bearing on happiness (1).

Dr. Mihaly Chentmihalyi, leading authority on positive psychology, studied happiness extensively in the 1960’s and came up with the same results as Killingsworth. He spoke of the peak state of human beings being a state he called ‘flow’.

According to Killingsworth, the average persons mind is wandering around 47% of our day—and when the mind wanders we don’t feel happy. Spending so much time with the mind wandering makes us vulnerable to depression, stress, anxiety and other negative emotions.

As many people continue to seek external gratification as a source of happiness, their wandering minds are overlooked as the source of their discontent.

This great study by Killingsworth supports the growing body of research on the powerful effects of mindfulness. The data shows us what wisdom traditions have long taught – that the keys to happiness – to true well-being and fulfilment – depend not on the external circumstances of our lives, but on the state of our minds and the quality of our consciousness.

Want to know how to enter ‘flow'(aka mindfulness) anytime in 4 simple steps? Check this blog post on exactly that!

Would you like to be part of Matt’s research and find out first hand what really makes you happy? Join ‘Track my Happiness’ here 

Do you have comments, questions or tips on this juicy topic? Jot them in the comments section below.

Love, Melli

(1) http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/14016/money-doesnt-correlate-with-happiness-after-a-certain-level

2. Tweeting it:
3. Giving it +1 on Google+:

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Comments

  1. a j mnarr says:

    Mindfulness IS the secret to happiness, but what is the secret to mindfulness. It is easier than you think!

    What makes people feel happy?
    To which one may respond, Why not simply ask them?
    That’s what the psychologist Matt Killingsworth (who discusses his research in an excellent TED video did when he polled over 15000 people using an iPhone app at random times during their day. He discovered that a feeling of pleasure, contentment, or happiness occurred when folks were doing one thing at a time, that’s it. He didn’t quite fully define his terms, such as what is this feeling of happiness and what do we exactly mean by attending to one thing at a time.

    https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_killingsworth_want_to_be_happier_stay_in_the_moment?language=en

    So what do we mean by the pleasure of happiness?
    All pleasures, from eating a burger to having sex correlate with the release of opioids in the brain. Obviously, we can’t all be eating supper or making love as our only solitary pursuit, so why would (as Killingsworth noted) we feel happy and content when driving a car and just focusing on the road ahead? The only activity that is correlated with opioid release other than the pleasures of the flesh are the pleasures of neuro-muscular inactivity, or resting states. And we know this because if you are relaxed and receive the opioid antagonist naltrexone, the opioid induced mild euphoria associated with rest disappears.(citation)

    https://books.google.com/books?id=HHijBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA135&lpg=PA135&dq=relaxation+endogenous+opioids&source=bl&ots=e1nkDbREFu&sig=7dvEzYg7X9AqPfrMy_S8dDzOLSA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi3yaCakKLKAhUB_mMKHX_pDzgQ6AEIQzAE#v=onepage&q=relaxation%20endogenous%20opioids&f=false

    So, our first hypothesis is this: happiness is primarily due to relaxation.
    But if the feeling of happiness is derived from resting states that are strongly correlated with the simple act of staying on task, this brings us to our second question.
    What do we mean by attending to one thing at a time?
    Just that. Solitary thoughts means you have no conflicting thoughts, so if you are focusing on getting a job done either physically or mentally, you are not thinking about anything that interferes with the task at hand. Besides Killingsworth’s findings, what additional proof do we have of this? Simple, all of the procedures we use to normally relax have at their core doing one thing at a time. From meditation to simply walking on the beach, doing one thing at a time is the foundational principle. For the concept of meditation, this conclusion is particularly telling.
    In a landmark article in the Journal ‘The American Psychologist’, the psychologist David Holmes demonstrated that the end result or dependent measure of meditative procedures was identical to resting states. It may also be argued that the independent measures or procedural correlates to resting states are also in essence the same. You are as Killingworth demonstrated effectively mindful when you are relaxed.

    Experimentally, the implications are profound. If meditation is rest, then logically you cannot compare meditation to a resting control group, because that group will be of necessity mindfully meditating! To get around this, meditation studies separate meditation from resting procedures by comparing meditators with control group subjects who have undergone relaxation training that teaches them to voluntary control tension. But control groups should reflect how people normally relax, not how they are trained to relax, and how they normally relax is simply clearing their minds of the mental conflicts of the day, or not engaging in judgments about anything, which is what mindfulness is.

    https://www.scribd.com/doc/291558160/Holmes-Meditation-and-Rest-The-American-Psychologist

    Ultimately, the problem is that by not understanding the neuro-physiology of rest and how it is elicited, we cannot define happiness or how we can attain it, nor can we effectively define and control stress.
    Here is a link to a free little book on the psychology of rest that attempts to do precisely this with a much more fully developed argument. The book is based on several published journal articles by the author on the neuro-physiology of rest. It is written for both lay and academic audiences, and by the way demonstrates why Killingsworth’s research is completely right.

    https://www.scribd.com/doc/284056765/The-Book-of-Rest-The-Odd-Psychology-of-Doing-Nothing

Trackbacks

  1. […] Too often we live our lives on ‘autopilot’. Performing the same routine tasks over and over again and never really taking a moment to stop and appreciate the beauty around us. Never stopping to actually experience this life we are living. It’s ridiculous the number of times i’ve arrived at my destination and whether it be driving or walking,  I have no memory of massive chunks of my journey! But i’m not alone, infact, a recent study has shown that the average person is on auto-pilot 47% of the time (http://mrsmindfulness.com/ted-talk-happiness-is-mindfulness/) […]

  2. […] know that what makes us most fulfilled, what bring us the most peace is actually simply being present in the moment, being with the pleasant and the […]

  3. […] moment experience, were significantly happier than people whose minds wandered away from the moment.” However, incorporating mindfulness into your morning routine does not mean that you must […]

  4. […] moment experience, were significantly happier than people whose minds wandered away from the moment.” However, incorporating mindfulness into your morning routine does not mean that you must […]

  5. […] moment experience, were significantly happier than people whose minds wandered away from the moment.” However, incorporating mindfulness into your morning routine does not mean that you must […]

  6. […] moment experience, were significantly happier than people whose minds wandered away from the moment.” However, incorporating mindfulness into your morning routine does not mean that you must […]

  7. […] moment experience, were significantly happier than people whose minds wandered away from the moment.” However, incorporating mindfulness into your morning routine does not mean that you must […]

  8. […] moment experience, were significantly happier than people whose minds wandered away from the moment.” However, incorporating mindfulness into your morning routine does not mean that you must […]

  9. […] moment experience, were significantly happier than people whose minds wandered away from the moment.” However, incorporating mindfulness into your morning routine does not mean that you must […]

  10. […] moment experience, were significantly happier than people whose minds wandered away from the moment.” However, incorporating mindfulness into your morning routine does not mean that you must […]

  11. […] around the mobile device! We are on autopilot and don’t even know we are on autopilot! (and research shows that the average person is in autopilot 47% of the […]

  12. […] around the mobile device! We are on autopilot and don’t even know we are on autopilot! (and research shows that the average person is in autopilot 47% of the […]

  13. […] around the mobile device! We are on autopilot and don’t even know we are on autopilot! (and research shows that the average person is in autopilot 47% of the […]

  14. […] Research shows the average person is in autopilot 47% of the time…our attention is absorbed in our wandering minds and we are not really ‘present’ in our own lives. (Harvard Gazeette, 2010) […]

  15. […] Research shows the average person is in autopilot 47% of the time…our attention is absorbed in our wandering minds and we are not really ‘present’ in our own lives. (Harvard Gazeette, 2010) […]

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