Don't worry, be happy--by thinking fast! - A new study out of Harvard and Princeton suggests that "thinking fast" can help your mood. In the study, subjects were encouraged to "think fast" by generating as many problem-solving ideas as possible in 10 minutes; by reading a list of ideas on a computer screen at a brisk pace; and by watching a video clip of I Love Lucy--in fast-forward!

When compared with other study subjects who performed the same tasks at a "relaxed speed," the fast thinker reported feeling more happy and, to a lesser degree, more energetic. So fast thinking activities, such as racing through an easy crossword puzzle or quickly brain-storming ideas, can boost energy and mood.

However, thinking fast can have a negative impact on some people. For those with bipolar disorder, the fast thinking exercises lead to manic feelings, which isn't good.

Interestingly, while fast and varied thinking can lead to feelings of happiness and elation, fast and repetitive thinking can lead to anxiety. And while, slow, varied thinking can lead to calm, peaceful feelings (like those achieved through meditation), slow, repetitive thinking can lead to depression.

Why do these factors (fast, slow, varied, repetitive) affect mood? Researchers speculate that part of the effect has to do with our expectations. In earlier studies, researchers found that people generally believe thinking fast indicates a good mood. Furthermore, thinking quickly could trigger the brain's dopamine system, which would very likely help a person feel happier. And while the "rush" caused by fast thinking may be impermanent, the little burst of positive emotion add up. Nice, ad hoc theories.

Why does happiness matter? Studies strongly suggest that happy people are more productive, have better immune function, etc....and besides, it beats the alternative.

Source - Rapid Thinking Makes People Happy: Scientific American

Stumbling on Happiness
by Daniel Gilbert
Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill
by Matthieu Ricard & Daniel Goleman

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