Global Risk/Innovation Blog

Day Dreams without Day Doing = Unhappiness

By Shlomo Maital

   A report in Science  last year shows the following:

People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy. So says a study that used an iPhone web app to gather 250,000 data points on subjects’ thoughts, feelings, and actions as they went about their lives.  The research, by psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University, is described in the journal Science.

 In other words:  we spend nearly half our time day dreaming, thinking about things other than what we are doing – clearly because what we are doing is uninteresting or boring – and then become unhappy, because the virtual world we dream about is far more wonderful than the real world we live in.

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

Human brains are different from animal brains, because humans can imagine what does not exist.  This, however, as novelists and philosophers have noted endlessly, can make us both visionary and very unhappy.  

  I believe there is a fairly simple solution.  Continue to dream.  But do more to implement your dreams and to create the virtual world that your dreams envision.