Daydreaming makes you happier

One day, the British scientist Alexander Graham Bell was daydreaming. He imagined how electric currents could move in the same way the air does when sound is produced. Eventually, that daydream resulted in the world’s first telephone. And this is just a single example of what daydreaming can bring us. A new study shows that interesting musings can also improve mental wellbeing.

Michael S. Franklin, a researcher at UC Santa Barbara, and his colleagues gathered 105 student volunteers and recorded their moods over the course of one week to test how their distracted thoughts influenced their moods. Each participant was given a personal digital assistant that randomly asked questions 50 times during the course of one week. Questions included how participants were feeling, if they were daydreaming, and if so, what kinds of topics were they daydreaming about. Results showed that 26% of the time recorded, people were letting their minds wander, and that they felt less positive about that. However, interesting and creative mind wandering was associated with strong positive feelings. 

There have been many previous studies that show mind wandering is associated with negative moods, such as that of researchers Killingsworth and Gilbert, published in the online publication Science Mag in 2010. Although the findings of Killingsworth and Gilbert suggest that off-task thoughts are associated with unhappiness, this study provides details into what types of off-task thoughts people had. When people’s minds wander on things like what they are working on or tasks that must be completed, this can lead to unhappiness. However, innovative or unique thoughts when working on something else can boost positive feelings and thus mental wellbeing. While the relationship between these thoughts and our mental wellbeing is still unclear – this is difficult for a scientist to gage and measure happiness – it is interesting to see that. 

Other studies, such as the Mooneyham and Schooler study, also looked at the costs and benefits of mind wandering. While they agree that previous studies have found mind wandering to negatively influence performance, but they also concluded that mind wandering has other benefits like problem solving. 

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Daydreaming makes you happier

One day, the British scientist Alexander Graham Bell was daydreaming. He imagined how electric currents could move in the same way the air does when sound is produced. Eventually, that daydream resulted in the world’s first telephone. And this is just a single example of what daydreaming can bring us. A new study shows that interesting musings can also improve mental wellbeing.

Michael S. Franklin, a researcher at UC Santa Barbara, and his colleagues gathered 105 student volunteers and recorded their moods over the course of one week to test how their distracted thoughts influenced their moods. Each participant was given a personal digital assistant that randomly asked questions 50 times during the course of one week. Questions included how participants were feeling, if they were daydreaming, and if so, what kinds of topics were they daydreaming about. Results showed that 26% of the time recorded, people were letting their minds wander, and that they felt less positive about that. However, interesting and creative mind wandering was associated with strong positive feelings. 

There have been many previous studies that show mind wandering is associated with negative moods, such as that of researchers Killingsworth and Gilbert, published in the online publication Science Mag in 2010. Although the findings of Killingsworth and Gilbert suggest that off-task thoughts are associated with unhappiness, this study provides details into what types of off-task thoughts people had. When people’s minds wander on things like what they are working on or tasks that must be completed, this can lead to unhappiness. However, innovative or unique thoughts when working on something else can boost positive feelings and thus mental wellbeing. While the relationship between these thoughts and our mental wellbeing is still unclear – this is difficult for a scientist to gage and measure happiness – it is interesting to see that. 

Other studies, such as the Mooneyham and Schooler study, also looked at the costs and benefits of mind wandering. While they agree that previous studies have found mind wandering to negatively influence performance, but they also concluded that mind wandering has other benefits like problem solving. 

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