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Mind wandering can be a sign of mental wellbeing, provided that your off-task musings are interesting and useful even if not related to the task at hand, finds a new study in Frontiers in Psychology.
The negative effects of mind wandering on performance and mood have recently received much attention, for example in the much-publicized study A wandering mind is an unhappy mind (Science 2010, 330:932). But Michael S. Franklin and colleagues here use a similar but more detailed experimental protocol to show that the negative effect of mind wandering on mood only holds for run-of-the-mill musings: in contrast, creative musings are a sign of mental wellbeing.
In this recent study, 105 student volunteers were equipped with a personal digital assistant, which asked them at random moments - approximately 50 times over one week - how positive or negative they felt, whether they were mind wandering, and if any musings they had were interesting, useful, or novel.
The volunteers reported that they were mind wandering 26% of the time, and they felt in general less positive when doing so. However, interesting and useful musings were selectively associated with strongly positive mood. Franklin and colleagues conclude that when people are encouraged to shift their musings to engaging topics, a wandering mind can become a happy mind.
Journal: Frontiers in Psychology
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12 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/265322>
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