I was a depressed kid and so when I was eleven I decided to end it all. Don’t worry I didn’t do it. As I grew older I realized that happiness was not an inborn trait it was a state, something I could develop. One of the keys to doing that is understanding what makes us happy. Thanks to a new smartphone app called “track your happiness” we can.

Using the app Harvard Psychologists questioned over 2000 people at various times to ask them how they were feeling. No prizes for guessing that making love made people happiest. (Perhaps a little less so after being interrupted by the beeping of a smartphone app.) The next best activity was exercise followed by conversation, listening to music, taking a walk, eating, praying, meditating, cooking, shopping and taking care of children – conspicuously low on the list.

Yet overall happiness was less dependent on what people were doing and more on what they were thinking. If their minds were wondering, particularly towards negative thoughts, they were significantly less happy. On average minds wandered nearly of the time. As Harvard researcher Dr. Glibert said: “I find it kind of weird now to look down at a crowded street and realize that half the people aren’t really there.” Mind wandering can be valuable when we’re problem solving, creating or fantasizing. It can even add to our happiness when we’re thinking about something positive. But overall most people were happier when their minds were not wandering.

I’ve found that one of the best ways to absorb myself in the present is to focus my attention on my physical sensations. Try it now. Tune into your body: The weight of your bum on the chair, your feet flat on the floor, the flow of air in and out your lungs; a warmth in you belly, a cool caress of air on your cheek, or just an overall feeling of ease and comfort. The greatest present we will ever get is the present. It comes with a treasure of sensations and all we need to do is tune in our attention.

“After enlightenment, laundry.” – so goes the Zen proverb. Enlightenment isn’t the absence of the mundane it’s bliss in the mundane. And that has less to do with where we are and a whole lot more to do with where our minds are. The yogi Ram Dass said: “Be here now” Now we know: “Be here now and be happy.” Check it out for yourself. Download “track your happiness” to see how being present makes you happier.


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