We enjoy being busy.  We may complain about our hectic, fast-paced lives, but most of us wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if we didn’t have a reason to be doing anything.  We like to keep our minds engaged in something, even if it is something as simple as browsing the internet or watching TV.

Christopher Hsee and his researchers from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago published studies that they believe demonstrate that busier people are happier people.

According to the July 2010 study published by Psychological Science, people like to find ways to occupy their time, and also like to attribute a purpose or meaning behind the activity.  In other words, we don’t like to be bored.

In an experiment, college-aged subjects were given two surveys, with a 15 minute break after the first survey was completed.  During that 15 minute break, students could either drop off the first survey nearby, or walk to a further location that would fill the time of the 15 break.  The experiment was conducted a few different ways, but ultimately the students who walked a further distance during the break reported feeling happier than students who did not.  In short, busier people are happier people.

Even more interesting, we like to attribute a meaning or purpose to our activities.  If we can justify a reason for doing something, we are more likely to do it.  In multiple variations of the experiments, students were offered different types of chocolate at each drop-off location.  If students were offered the same type of incentive at either locations, most students chose the lazier option (of dropping off the survey nearby).  If students could justify walking further for a certain kind of chocolate, they were more likely to choose the busier option (of walking to the location during the 15 minute break).  In either scenario, subjects were happier when they chose the busy option, and walked during the 15 minute break.

What does this say about us?  We are naturally lazy and tend to choose the idle option because we know we should conserve our energy.  But if we can find even a simple justification for doing so, we like to stay busy and occupied with our time.  Evolutionarily, we may well be designed to keep busy to ensure our species’ continuing progress.

For more information check out this article: http://news.discovery.com/human/busy-people-happiness.html

John Bradley Jackson
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