The only activity during which people seemed to be quite good at staying on task mentally was while making love. During sex, only 10 percent of people reported wandering thoughts.
Generally, people also reported being the happiest when making love, exercising or conversing. They said they were least happy when resting or sleeping, working or using a home computer.
When it came to what they were thinking about, 42.5 percent thought of pleasant topics, 26.5 percent thought of unpleasant topics, while 31 percent were thinking neutral thoughts.
And while people who were thinking of pleasant things were happier than people thinking of unpleasant things, even those thinking happy thoughts were less happy than people who were fully engaged in whatever they were doing.
The study is published in the Nov. 12 issue of Science.
In some ways, the research provides scientific evidence of what many self-help books and some religious traditions espouse, which is that being in the "here and now" is critical for happiness, Killingsworth said.
Participants were from 83 counties, a wide range of occupations and ranged in age from 18 to 88.
Barbara Becker Holstein, a psychologist and "happiness coach" in Long Branch, N.J., said the findings speak to the importance of doing things that provide a sense of purpose and meaning. Such activities make it easier to stay focused, Holstein explained.
"This research is fabulous and fascinating," Holstein said. "But long before the research, psychologists and many educators recognized that in order to feel a sense of well-being, you need to feel you have purpose and meaning in life. That means you are containing the mind around certain projects and activities, and are forcing the mind not to be all over the place all day long."
If you feel your mind starting to
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