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View Full Version : "Want to be happier? Stay in the moment."



frankiebrown
11-06-2012, 04:28 PM
I watched this video earlier this morning. (http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_killingsworth_want_to_be_happier_stay_in_the_ moment.html)

It's a TedTalk by a researcher named Matt Killingsworth about when people are most happy. Turns out, people are generally pretty unhappy when their minds wander. We are most happy when we're in the moment.

As a writer and frequent mind-wanderer, this concerned/intrigued me. Mind-wandering is practically in the job description of any writer. If I'm at work, I'm thinking about my MS. If I'm driving, I'm thinking about my MS. If I'm in the shower, I'm thinking about what books may have useful information about the victims of the Spanish flu (for my MS)... You get the idea.

“Mind-wandering isn't just frequent, it's ubiquitous — it pervades everything that we do.”

On the other hand, when I'm writing and really getting it, I'm lost in the moment. 100% invested in what I'm doing. I know that I'm happy in that moment. But a lot of day-dreaming was required to get there.

Does the end justify the means? Is the amount of mind-wandering (and therefore unhappiness) necessary to get that rush of happiness when you're lost in the moment worth it?

It sounds like I'm describing a drug ;). Is the high worth the crash, then?

As writers, are we destined to be unhappy?

shadowwalker
11-06-2012, 04:39 PM
Didn't look at the vid (for some reason I rarely do) but I don't think 'mind wandering' is what makes people unhappy. For me, my mind tends to wander when I'm bored or just not liking what I'm doing - and that's how I keep from being unhappy.

That said, I do think people in general spend too much time worrying about what could be, what should be, what might be - and forget to appreciate what's happening now. Like parents who spend so much time working so they can provide for their kids - and don't have time to play with them. Neither parents nor kids are happy.

I personally think it's a balancing act between the practical (providing for the future/emergencies) and the - well, I don't want to say impractical but perhaps the 'spiritual' (which isn't much better). When one starts thinking about what needs to be done so that something else can happen, they also have to stop for a moment and think about what's going on right now - and realize that that moment, that opportunity, will be gone much sooner than some event ten years down the road.

NeuroFizz
11-06-2012, 04:59 PM
There is no one-size-fits-all kind of happiness. Find what makes you happy and don't sweat what the pidgeon-holers say. To me, it is the individualistic nature of writing and of writers that makes this such a wonderful business, and produces such unique and diverse kinds of stories.

elindsen
11-06-2012, 06:02 PM
I'm in group therapy and my counselor is always trying to get us "in the moment." Mindfulness. But in truth my mind does wander to my ms. I'm happiest when I'm working on it, which includes mind plotting. I think as long as you're in a moment it's all good.

Namatu
11-06-2012, 06:05 PM
Didn't look at the vid (for some reason I rarely do) but I don't think 'mind wandering' is what makes people unhappy.I also don't think what you described you do, frankiebrown, is what the video speaker is talking about. Non-writers don't think about characters and plot and what could happen. It's more like what shadowwalker described. When life problems and crises and worries have you so focused on what ifs in your reality that you can't seize the good that's right in front of you.

"Happiness" is subjective. It will be different for everyone.

Johncs
11-06-2012, 06:06 PM
As writers, are we destined to be unhappy?

Yes. ;)

Killingsworth (the video) seems to suggest we're better off as mules, the field's end our only goal. Focus our attention on being more effective cogs in a dehumanized machine. Become something less than an individual. But I might be overreacting.

Staying in the moment sound like "don't think about the future, or the past because it will make you sad. Don't feel the highs because there are lows."

What a brave new world, that has such people in it!

Phaeal
11-06-2012, 06:09 PM
I am always in the moment. It's just a matter of whether I'm in the real world's moment or my world's moment. When things suck in one place, I can turn to the other.

But sometimes, you know, you have to stay with what sucks in order to make it better. Unhappiness has its evolutionary, social and artistic uses.

Jamesaritchie
11-06-2012, 06:13 PM
I've heard the exact opposite many times. If daydreaming isn't mind wandering, I don't know what is, but it sure seems to make us happy.

This video strikes me as both "Duh, of course", and "How narrow and silly can you get".

frankiebrown
11-06-2012, 06:19 PM
I also don't think what you described you do, frankiebrown, is what the video speaker is talking about. Non-writers don't think about characters and plot and what could happen. It's more like what shadowwalker described. When life problems and crises and worries have you so focused on what ifs in your reality that you can't seize the good that's right in front of you.

"Happiness" is subjective. It will be different for everyone.

The problem is that the study Killingsworth conducted took into account the fact that when a person is mind-wandering, it may not always be about unpleasant things. The study says that even when you're daydreaming about pleasant things (the examples used were a vacation you might have taken, or what you're going to have for dinner), you're still comparably less happy than when you're living in the moment. Which may be subjective, but given the size and diversity of the group that was studied, is still compelling.

Personal Prose
11-06-2012, 06:25 PM
I am always in the moment. It's just a matter of whether I'm in the real world's moment or my world's moment. When things suck in one place, I can turn to the other.

But sometimes, you know, you have to stay with what sucks in order to make it better. Unhappiness has its evolutionary, social and artistic uses.

Well said.

From when I was a child,up until my third child was born (who is now 17), part of my mind always wandered. Not so much with worry, but there was always a story going on in there somewhere, usually a romance. I didn't realize until recently that was the cornerstone to writing.

But life got really busy, my imagination left (among other things). I was 24/7 "living in the moment". Honestly, looking back, it sucked.

But now that life has slowed up a little bit, and I reconnected with the part that I thought was uniquely me, I think I've found the balance between staying in the moment when needed and letting my mind fly free when I allow it.

Susan Littlefield
11-06-2012, 06:42 PM
Happiness is subjective. I love to daydream, and it makes me very happy.

Namatu
11-06-2012, 07:25 PM
The problem is that the study Killingsworth conducted took into account the fact that when a person is mind-wandering, it may not always be about unpleasant things. So happiness can be measured? I'm not interested. Measuring it, comparing it, is bound to generate unhappiness at some point.

I think there can be a fixation on "being happy." It's a transient thing. Sure, living in the moment, being present and mindful of right now instead of mulling over the past or worrying about the future, can have a lot of positive results, but it's not possible to always be in the present. And it's not a guarantee of happiness.

shadowwalker
11-06-2012, 07:30 PM
There's the saying that a person is as happy as they decide to be. I think, with some exceptions, that is true. More people make themselves miserable wanting what they don't have instead of appreciating what they do.

Phaeal
11-06-2012, 10:15 PM
Plus if you're supposed to live in the moment, why do doctors tell you to think about something pleasant when they're about to jab you with a nine-inch needle?

And we must remember the lessons of Star Trek. You know the Classic episode where super-dandelions shoot happy spores into everyone, causing McCoy to roam around with a mint julep in his hand instead of doing vitally useful things like yelling at Spock. It was a sorry sight.

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
11-06-2012, 11:45 PM
Probably the point of "being in the moment" is not to go off wishing you were somewhere else, doing something different, fighting the current situation, spending a lot of energy worrying etc. This is only reinforcing a bad feeling, rather than sensing/being aware that you are feeling bad and accepting it or changing the situation after considering why you're feeling bad.

It's to be conscious of what you are doing, and change it if needed (and possible).

Daydreaming is not an issue, it's ruminative thoughts that drag you in an endless cycle of anxiety, minor or major, where you end up fighting imaginative issues, feeling worse and spiraling down. So if it's of any help to writers in particular it's not by avoiding daydreaming or plotting your novel, but to avoid agonizing over the seven circles of hell towards publication. Enjoy the writing, the road and let the chips fall where they may.

Your local grasshopper who has spent some time trying to get his head around this thing called mindfulness.

Buffysquirrel
11-07-2012, 09:02 PM
I have been following with some interest in the New Scientist a series of articles about how daydreaming leads to unhappiness, and how creative types daydream in the course of creation, and wondering the same thing: is this why we're all* so bleeding miserable? Eh.

*exaggeration for effect

SWest
11-07-2012, 09:19 PM
...If I'm at work, I'm thinking about my MS. If I'm driving, I'm thinking about my MS. If I'm in the shower, I'm thinking about what books may have useful information about the victims of the Spanish flu (for my MS)... You get the idea.

...



What you are describing here is more what I might call "directed obsession". :D It has purpose and meaning to you. It will make a significant part of your life progress. And, if you're going to go home and remember what you've been ruminating on, then your mental process was very Present.


Not being present to This Now Moment is quite different. Distractedly reviewing past events, or practicing arguments that have not happened yet (and may never take place) are better examples of what is at play in this happiness/unhappiness paradigm.

Unmindfulness encompasses all the states of mind that are passively disconnected from This Present Moment. Worry. Regret. Anxiety. Stuff we fall into thinking about that are time and energy wasters. Things well worth interrupting with a deep breath and a good look around to see Where I Am Right Now.



Directing your thoughts to your WIP is an indication that your work passion lies along a different path from your current income-producing efforts. But that's another thing entirely.
:D

Siri Kirpal
11-07-2012, 10:37 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Personally, I've always thought that writers have it good: when life gives us lemons, we can use that negative stuff to fuel our writing and make lemonade.

As a practiced meditator, I can tell you that mindfulness is not about emptying the mind and being a robot: it's about watching the mind dispassionately. Going deep into the daydream that writers need to create their works is very much in the moment. The real hell comes when we try to sell our creations; that's when we leave the happiness that writing can and does bring.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

jaksen
11-08-2012, 05:01 PM
I don't know about this 'stay in the moment' stuff. I am happiest when I totally forget about myself. My own problems, my life, my worries. A lot of unhappy and depressed people are too obsessed with themselves - how they look, who they like, who likes them, what to wear, where to eat, what to eat. Blah blah blah

Sorry if I spoiled the intent of this thread. I'm not making light of the 'in the moment' idea and if it works to make one person less unhappy, bravo. I simply think when we obsess on ourselves, instead of just doing things - writing, reading, working, focusing on other people or things - we're more prone to being unhappy, or at the very least, dissatisfied.

I know a lot of women my age (middle aged and older) who are miserable. Really, totally miserable. They're unhappy with their children, their marriages, their weight, their hair, their parents, their jobs - I could go on and on. They try so hard to make things just right, and to control everyone around them, that they live in a constant state of disappointment. I had one say to me, you're so upbeat, what's your secret?

Ummm, I write/read a lot and tend not to think about myself too much.

Siri Kirpal
11-08-2012, 10:31 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Jaksen, I think the phrase "in the moment" does mean that we're not thinking about ourselves, but about what we're doing, enjoying, etc.

I agree 100 percent that fussing over trivial stuff about ourselves and others is not the road to happiness.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
11-08-2012, 10:44 PM
Siri, I'm curious. What does "Truth Name" imply as a greeting?

Siri Kirpal
11-09-2012, 04:46 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

"In the Name of the Truth" or "I see Truth in you." Take your pick.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
11-09-2012, 11:24 AM
Thanks Siri. That's a wonderful greeting.

blacbird
11-09-2012, 12:38 PM
Back in younger days, I was an avid, and pretty decent, basketball player. That fast, reactive game, was always played best and most enjoyable, when it was played "in the moment". The great players, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, all understand this in their bone marrow. As a spectator, you can see it when you watch them play at their best.

Methinks the great writers do, too. I've had a few moments like this in writing. I sure wish I knew how to have them more frequently.

caw