I just read a fascinating post on Forbes.com by a fellow contributor, Alice G Walton. She references a few studies that equate mind wandering with negative feelings and depression. Alice writes:
So is being happy all about shifting our tendency away from focus on ourselves? Research in other areas, like neuro-theology (literally the neurology of religion), suggests that there may be something to this. Andy Newberg, MD at the University of Pennsylvania has found that both in meditating monks and in praying nuns, areas of the brain important in concentration and attention were activated, while areas that govern how a person relates to the external world were deactivated. These findings may suggest that for people who practice meditation or prayer, the focus becomes less on the self as a distinct entity from the external world, and more on connection between the two. This reflects the idea discussed earlier where shifting attention from inside to outside is at least part of what quells unhappiness.
I find these studies, and Alice’s take on depression and unhappiness, fascinating. I immediately related and think that the reason I am a generally happy person, and always have been (depression is, thank goodness, not something I have ever had to deal with), is that I am an over committed overachiever. I am always, and always have been, committed to too many things. In high school I was class president, and in theater, and did three sports a year, and played the flute in flute choir, and got straight A’s. Oh yeah, and I also worked on weekends for additional pocket money. Today I find myself as the mother of three young boys (ages almost 2, 5 and 7), the CEO of a tech company, on three committees, on the Parent Council at my sons’ school, on the Board of Directors at the Eugene Chamber of Commerce, on the Board at Whole Earth Nature School, President of the Princeton Entrepreneurs’ Network, and the current Chair for the Willamette Angel Conference.