For years social scientists would have to interview somebody as to what makes them happy in order to study what makes somebody happy. That is until now. Matthew Killingsworth is a scientist who studies the nature and causes of human happiness, and is the creator of www.trackyourhappiness.org, a project that uses smartphones to study happiness in real-time during everyday life. Matt believes that who we spend our time with, how we think about ourselves and other people, and where our attention is focused – may just add up into an equation for happiness. So what is it?
You can sign up online and Matt will send you a text with a link to a survey. (We received texts -3x a day for a week, which sometimes got annoying). The idea is that you want to respond as fast as you can and tell him about your experience at that moment.
Some of the texts are: How do you feel right now? Do you have to do what you’re doing? Do you want to do what you’re doing? Yes or no.
35,000 people have answered these questions for Matt.
He took the results from all the different activities that people engage in, and found that they’re universally happier when they’re fully engaged in that activity and not mind wandering-no matter what it was they were doing.
It seems that when our mind wonders it steers towards thoughts of the past or future and are often times negative. So the million dollar question is, “how do we stay focused on the present moment”? He doesn’t have an answer for that but after practicing yoga & breathing techniques for the last 10 years, I can attest that focusing on your breath is one way to keep you present. Meditation is another. Some people find extreme sports yet another way to stay present.
The bottom line is enjoying fully what ever you’re doing in the present moment will lead you to greater happiness and the more your mind wanders, the less happy you will be.
Matt earned his Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard University. Matt received his B.S.E. from Duke University with majors in Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Economics.