Daydreaming makes people unhappy |

Daydreaming makes people unhappy

Elizabeth Lopatto
Bloomberg News

People spend almost half of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and their daydreaming usually doesn’t take them to a happy place, a study reports.

People’s minds wandered about 46.9 percent of the time, and no less than

30 percent of the time during every activity except sex, according to a study in the journal Science. Straying attention occurred most often at work.

By analyzing the data over time, the researchers discovered that people didn’t merely fantasize when they were unhappy; instead, wandering minds led to unhappiness, said study author Matthew Killingsworth, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass.

“People spend a lot of time with their minds wandering and that seems to be damaging for their happiness,” Killingsworth said.

Harvard University researchers surveyed over 2,200 people using an app on their Apple iPhones to ask them what they were doing, how happy they were, whether their minds were wandering, and how their daydreams made them feel. People were aged 18 to 88, and 74 percent of the participants were American.

Though people thought of positive things 42.5 percent of the time, they were no happier when thinking of those things than when focusing on what they were doing, the data showed. People were more unhappy when their mind wandered to neutral or unpleasant thoughts.

That the data were immediate, as people were going about their days, rather than retrospective, allowed researchers to investigate specific activities throughout the day, including traveling, working, watching television and eating.