So it turns out people are happiest when they are having sex and least happy when they are at work or commuting to work. Yes, it took a scientific study to figure this out, but no, it’s not for the reasons you might expect.
Harvard University’s happiness gurus, Daniel Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth conducted a study recently, which John Tierney detailed in the New York Times. The shocking finding that sex makes you happier than work has nothing to do with which activity is more pleasurable though. It has to do with how often your mind wanders.
No matter what activity an individual was involved in, they reported being happier if their mind did not wander away from the activity at hand. “In fact, whether and where their minds wandered was a better predictor of happiness than what they were doing.” Which means that people are happier even when their minds are focused on an unpleasant task, than they are when their mind wanders during a pleasant task. Sex, it seems is an activity where the mind doesn’t tend to wander, and apparently work is an activity rife with mind-wandering opportunities.
Which makes me think that this is what people are really worried about when they worry about being bored in retirement. While retirement offers the time to engage in whatever activity you want whenever you want, the gift of time also provides more time for your mind to wander. And since a wandering mind apparently makes you less happy, even when engaged in pleasurable activities, the risk of unhappiness may be greater when you’re not forced to focus on a particular activity like work.
For those that are worried about boredom in retirement, it should come as some comfort then, that work doesn’t really seem to protect against that wandering mind and the resulting unhappiness. It definitely pays to figure out what other activities will keep you engaged during retirement, because there’s only so much time you can devote to the one that is proven to keep your mind engaged.
This is a post from Retirement: A Full-Time Job