Unhappy? Focus on the Present

Do you find yourself unhappy a majority of the time, especially in the workplace?  Perhaps it’s not the environment or the job, itself.  It could be a simple matter of your focus (or rather, your focus on too many things at once). 

Psychologists at Harvard University recently completed a study to find out how people felt by looking at what they were actually doing.  The researchers asked the participants what they were doing at random times of the day and how they were feeling.

Based on the responses from approximately 2,200 people, it turns out that happiness may not necessarily be linked to what people are doing, but rather their level of focus on the activity they’re participating in at the time. 

In other words, if I’m at a theme park (I am a big fan of roller coasters, mind you), my level of happiness might be less if I’m too busy thinking about my unpaid bills, or that big client presentation coming up on Tuesday.  My level of happiness would likely increase if I were to simply enjoy my experience and stop thinking about the future and/or past.

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense.  Most of us spend too much time at work thinking and worrying about other things.  It could be all the different tasks and requests that we have to fulfill, or we might be thinking about our kid’s baseball game which happens to be at the same time of a very important meeting at work which we cannot miss.  All of this causes stress, which certainly doesn’t give us a happiness booster. 

This research matters now more than ever, especially because of the age we live in.  Technology has given us great tools to share knowledge, but at the same time, it has given us more distractions.  If you take a walk through the downtown area of any major city, you’ll see exactly how few people really live “in the moment.” 

Here’s an activity: Whether you’re at home or at work, try focusing on just one thing.  Block out the rest of your thoughts and concentrate on completing the task at hand.  When you’re done, reflect on how you felt while you completed the task.  Do you notice a difference in how happy you were, or how stressed you might have been?

The full study was published by Science Magazine, which you can view here.

Now that you’ve read through my posting and have focused on it the entire time, tell me how happy you are.  Leave your comments!

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  • Comments (4)
    • Raj Mohan
    • December 3rd, 2010

    Very good and happy.

    • Scott Patchin
    • December 3rd, 2010

    Thanks for sharing the research Matt. I am 18 months into a startup and just last night spent 60 minutes re-FOCUSing by doing a sales plan to guide me. It made a difference in how I felt this morning, which is why your post was so timely.

    • Thank you for your comments, Scott! Being 18 months into a startup company, I KNOW you have a lot on your plate! Since I first read about this study, I, too, have been trying to focus my energy on one thing at a time. I can also say that it takes out a lot of the usual stress.

    • VK Shrotryia
    • December 3rd, 2010

    Liked the research. Shall look forward for full research paper. Strongly feel, Happiness is a state of mind, it is an attitude that one carries. However attitude has every possibility of being moulded, revived, and influenced.

    wishes

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