One of the things I remember most from when I was little is how much I loved art. I remember the total happy absorption I would feel as I immersed myself in my crayon drawings, completely unaware of the passage of time. Sometimes I miss that feeling.
But as we grow up, we have more and more on our minds, and it gets a little harder to be able to lose ourselves in a moment. Interestingly, according to a recent study published by Harvard University psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, this can be a significant source of unhappiness.
The broad conclusion of this study is that the more absorbed we are in whatever our current activity might be, the happier we are. When our mind wanders away from whatever we are doing, it makes us unhappy.
Killingsworth is quoted as saying, “Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness. In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”
Children have an amazing ability to lose themselves in the present moment, to give their entire attention to whatever they are doing without worrying or thinking about other aspects of their life, and as adults, we could benefit from their example. I’m not saying that all children do this all the time, but they certainly have the ability to do it.
Maybe you’ve seen your son or daughter caught up in building something or drawing something or inventing something. Maybe you’ve seen it under less idyllic circumstances…but even if they’re watching TV standing on one foot with their mouths hanging open or if they’re tired and whiny, they have the ability to completely lose themselves in their television show or the tantrum they are throwing. (Of course I am not recommending that kind of behavior for adults.)
But if you have kids, take advantage of their example in this regard. Take some time to get down on the floor and play with them, read with them, talk with them (interestingly, the study found that one of the activities that made people happiest was having conversations)…lose yourself in the moment with them…even if it’s just for a moment. Of course your kids will enjoy it.
But it might just help you to have a happier day too.