Idol Chatter

Newsflash: the epidemic of distraction provided by technology today in the form of email, iPhones, blackberries, and other gadgets that foster multi-tasking seriously get in the way of our happiness. The ability to focus on a single task, to be present, in the moment even! (how zen this sounds) has a strong correlation to happiness. Or so says the latest New York Times article, “When the Mind Wanders, Happiness Also Strays” on the subject sparked by yet another recent study on happiness, this time in the Science section, and the study, this time was specifically on happiness in relation to iPhone usage:
“Whatever people were doing, whether it was having sex or reading or shopping, they tended to be happier if they focused on the activity instead of thinking about something else. In fact, whether and where their minds wandered was a better predictor of happiness than what they were doing. . . “We see evidence for mind-wandering causing unhappiness, but no evidence for unhappiness causing mind-wandering,” Mr. Killingsworth says. This result may disappoint daydreamers, but it’s in keeping with the religious and philosophical admonitions to “Be Here Now,” as the yogi Ram Dass titled his 1971 book.”
As I was reading this article, I couldn’t help but remember the paper I did in graduate school on the concept of “flow,” developed by the famous University of Chicago scholar, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who defined flow as: “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” For a long time I was rather obsessed with the idea and its potential spiritual significance. So, given the content of the article, I was pleased that flow was mentioned in the New York Times article: “What psychologists call “flow” — immersing your mind fully in activity — has long been advocated by nonpsychologists [as conducive of happiness and personal well-being.”
The moral of the story? Put down your iPhone and leave it there. Really. You can do it. You’ll be better for it.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus