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People enjoy doing things instead of just daydreaming

A bored young girl with nothing much to do
A bored young girl with nothing much to doPixabay/Freephoto

It would appear that people might enjoy a chance to simply sit alone and daydream. However, researchers have found this is not true and that people prefer to be doing something. New research has found people generally do not enjoy spending even just 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do aside from thinking reported the journal Science on July 4, 2014.

Instead of simply sitting alone and thinking people were observed to enjoy even doing simply mundane external activities much more. This finding becomes more significant in view of the fact that people even preferred to hurt themselves by administering electric shocks to themselves instead of being left to sit alone with their thoughts. The majority of people appear to prefer to be doing something instead of nothing, even if that something to do is negative.

According to a new psychological investigation most people are simply not comfortable in their own heads reports the University of Virginia. The researchers said most people would really prefer to be doing something, even if that means hurting themselves, instead of doing nothing or just sitting alone with their thoughts.

In a series of studies by University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues at the University of Virginia and Harvard University it was observed that people from a range of ages generally did not enjoy spending even short periods of time alone in a room with nothing much to do aside from thinking, pondering or daydreaming. The participants overall enjoyed much more engaging in external activities such as listening to music or using a smartphone. Surprisingly some of the participants even preferred to give themselves mild electric shocks than to simply sit and think.

Wilson does not necessarily attribute these findings to the fast pace of modern society or the high availability of electronic devices, such as smartphones. Instead Wilson believes the new devices available for people might be a response to people’s desire to always have something to do. In his review of this research Wilson noted that people generally do not prefer to disengage from the world and when this happens they are generally not very happy.

Based on the surveys by the researchers Americans spent most of their time watching television, socializing or reading, and actually spent very little or no time simply relaxing or thinking. It has been highlighted that it was particularly a striking finding that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes appeared to be so aversive to participants that it drove many of them to self-administer an electric shock which they had earlier said they would pay to be able to avoid.

Wilson points out that the human mind is designed to engage with the world around us. People are generally focused on the outside world even when they are alone by themselves. Without training in meditation or thought-control techniques the majority of people would prefer to engage in external activities. In view of the finding that many people would even prefer to hurt themselves than be left alone to simply think about things, it appears wise to always make something safe available for people to do. Training in meditation or thought-control techniques is also a good idea to help nurture mental well being naturally.

This all raises an awareness of why most people end up hating psychiatric intervention into their lives. Psychiatrists are well known for wasting people's lives and leaving them with absolutely nothing at all to do aside from sit in a room alone and daydream most of the time. This creates mental illness instead of mental health.