What happened? You were just peacefully relaxing on the sofa and then you started thinking about something your boyfriend or your husband or your mother or your sister — god, it’s always your sister — said or did and now your mind is racing, heaping grievance upon grievance, and you’re completely and utterly miserable.
You’re in a bad mood. And it’s only getting worse.
Don’t abandon hope. You can turn that frown upside down and restore emotional equilibrium if you simply retrain your mind to stop wandering and to focus on the present, or so suggests a 2010 study (via Forbes.com) by Harvard researchers.
Interested to see what activities were associated with a bad mood, researchers used an app to track the emotional status of more than 2,250 iPhone users at certain points through the day. They discovered one constant factor when it came to the onset of bad moods: a wandering mind.
According to the study, it didn’t matter what people were doing — whether the activity was pleasurable or mundane or even unpleasant — if they allowed their mind to wander they often experienced a dip in morale.
The study also found that human beings spend a lot of time letting their minds wander, about 46 percent of the day in some cases. This wouldn’t be such an issue if it didn’t affect state of mind so significantly.
As a result of their findings the psychology researchers determined that mind wandering could be considered a cause for unhappiness, and the more you do it the more often you’ll find your spirits flagging.
“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” wrote study authors Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert. “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”
So, how do you stop your mind from taking a stroll down misery lane? Train your mind to stay in the moment. One way to do that is to borrow from the practices of yoga and meditation and begin to take deep breaths and focus on your breathing — your inhalations and exhalations — rather than your thoughts.
You can also take the ‘snap out of it’ advice literally and put a rubber band around your wrist. Every time you start to feel your mind wander, give it a snap.
When does your mind wander the most?