Picture this: you’re in a class and you are struggling to understand the material. You’ve got a big party tonight, and you start to focus less on the professor and more on what you’re going to wear. An hour later, you walk out of class and realize you don’t have a clue what happened during that time.
According to a study conducted by two Harvard psychologists using the iPhone application, “Track Your Happiness,” “a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” But to me there is only one way that mind wandering can cause unhappiness.
Mind wandering equates to lack of focus, and lack of focus causes mistakes. Lack of focus might be forgetting to grab your notes after class or being involved in a car accident on your way home. Mistakes can cause unhappiness, both for yourself and others around you. Unhappiness derived from your mistakes caused by your lack of focus equals mind wandering that indirectly affects your joy, or lack thereof, and this is the only way that the study can be looked at as even partially true.
When your mind is wandering, it often means you’re unhappy with your current situation. Whether you’re in a class you aren’t fond of or you’re at a funeral, you aren’t completely engaged in what’s going on because you would much rather be somewhere else or doing something else you enjoy.
So your mind wanders to escape the unpleasant situation. Call it retreating to your happy place.
That isn’t to say you should never daydream. According to Phillip Sharp, Nobel Prize laureate for the discovery of split genes, complete focus on a task can limit inspiration. Your brain stores memories and information from the time you are born, but when you focus on a task, it blocks out everything except what relates to your job. This leads to a mental block. Taking a step back and thinking about other, unrelated things for awhile is often the fastest way to the solution and is crucial to creativity.
While it’s safe to say that letting your mind wander all the time is sure to cause unhappiness in the long run, a little creative daydreaming can only help.
Danika Scevers is a freshman pre-major from Abilene.