Discover the Three Times You Feel the Happiest: Are You Missing Out?

Can you guess the three moments in your life when you feel the happiest? Researchers at Harvard have identified these special times when we experience the most joy. However, they also discovered that if you let your mind wander away from being in the present, you risk losing those good feelings. We spend almost 50% of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically reduces our happiness.

A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind

Using an iPhone web app to gather 250,000 data points on people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, researchers found that we’re often disconnected from our present circumstances. They concluded that “a human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.

Unlike other animals, humans spend a lot of time thinking about what isn’t going on around them. We contemplate events that occurred in the past, might take place in the future or may never happen at all. The Harvard scientists believe that mind-wandering is the human brain’s default mode of operation.

“Mind-wandering appears ubiquitous across all activities,” says researcher Matthew Killingsworth, a doctoral student in psychology at Harvard. “This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present.”

The Three Happiest Moments

The study revealed that our three happiest moments in life are when we are:

  1. Making love
  2. Exercising
  3. Conversing with others

The unhappiest times, on the other hand, are when we are resting, working, or using a home computer.

How to Stay Present and Boost Your Happiness

Since the study shows that being present is key to happiness, let’s explore some ways to keep our minds from wandering and increase our overall well-being.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. This can be as simple as focusing on your breath, noticing your thoughts and sensations, and gently guiding your attention back to the present. You can practice mindfulness in any situation, whether you’re at work, exercising, or spending time with friends and family.

One popular method is to set aside a few minutes each day for mindfulness meditation—simply sit in a comfortable, quiet place and focus on your breath, letting any thoughts or distractions come and go without judgment. There are many resources available online and in books to help you get started with mindfulness practice.

Cultivate Gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful way to bring your attention back to the present and appreciate the good things in your life. Research has shown that practicing gratitude regularly can significantly boost happiness levels. One simple way to cultivate gratitude is to keep a daily gratitude journal where you write down three things you are grateful for each day. Another option is to take a few moments throughout your day to mentally acknowledge the people, moments, and things that bring you joy.

Engage in Flow Activities

Flow is a state of complete absorption in an activity where you lose track of time and are fully focused on the task at hand. Activities that promote flow tend to be challenging, require skill, and provide clear goals and immediate feedback. Examples of flow activities include playing a musical instrument, participating in sports, or doing creative work such as painting or writing.

Engaging in flow activities not only keeps your mind rooted in the present but also provides a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment when the task is completed. Try to incorporate activities that promote flow into your daily life, and see how it affects your overall happiness.

Foster Meaningful Relationships

As the Harvard study showed, spending time with others and having meaningful conversations contribute to our happiness. Make an effort to unplug from technology and spend quality time with friends and family, engaging in deep conversations and sharing experiences. Social connection not only helps to keep our minds present but also provides support, encouragement, and a sense of belonging.

In Conclusion

To experience the happiest moments of our lives and maintain long-term well-being, it’s essential to stay present in the moment and to avoid letting our minds wander. By practicing mindfulness, cultivating gratitude, engaging in flow activities, and fostering social connections, we can increase our happiness and live more fulfilling lives.