Everywhere I go, I see people glued to their phones.
People seem obsessed with their phones and you might even say, why not?
Phones these days can do everything – take photos, store games and books, keep our calendars…Even help us chart our happiness. Yes, I did say chart our happiness.
This app is one that I had heard of first when reading a Science article last November.
Matthew Killingsworth, a PhD student in Dr. Dan Gilbert’s psychology lab in Harvard, created a smartphone app that allows you to track how happy you are at various times.
You register on his site and answer some basic questions. You then are able to download the app and choose how often you report your feelings and current activities. If your mind isn’t on task, you are asked if you are thinking about something happy, unhappy, or neutral.
At the end, you receive a “happiness report,” which will show your happiness depending on factors like what you are doing and who you are with.
They compiled this information from 2,250 volunteer app users and found that: (1) people are lost in thought nearly as often as they are focused on the present moment and (2) this “non-present” thinking causes them to be unhappy.
Overall, 46.9% of the time the participants’ minds were not on their present tasks and overwhelmingly these wandering thoughts were unpleasant.
When reporting on the activity, participants were given a choice of 22 general activities, which included working, resting, having sex, etc.
In all but one activity (having sex), participants reported that their minds wandered at least 30% of the time.
That is a lot of unpleasant thoughts swirling around in our heads. The researchers interpreted their data to suggest that happiness had much less to do with what activity they were engaging in vs. whether or not their minds were wandering.
One of the reasons why this study was so interesting to me is that mindfulness meditation can be so useful in solving this “wandering thoughts” problem.
By staying on the present moment, we are better able to moderate our emotions, to find joy in our lives, and to be better practitioners.
While there may not yet be an app to tell people to meditate, this app sounds like it could have potential for convincing patients of the benefits that mindfulness can bring.
We have created a new Mindfulness Webinar Series, which investigates the application of mindfulness to clinical application.
We explore ways of introducing mindfulness into both our practices and our patients’ lives.
How have you utilized new technology to help your patients? Please leave a comment below.