Mind-wandering may have positive effects on mood

Franklin, M. S., et al. (2013). The silver lining of a mind in the clouds: interesting musings are associated with positive mood while mind-wandering. Frontiers in psychology, 4. Full text.

The negative effects of mind-wandering on performance and mood have been widely documented. In a recent well-cited study, conducted a large experience sampling study revealing that all off-task episodes, regardless of content, have equal to or lower happiness ratings, than on-task episodes.

We present data from a similarly implemented experience sampling study with additional mind-wandering content categories. Our results largely conform to those of the above study, with mind-wandering generally being associated with a more negative mood.

However, subsequent analyses reveal situations in which a more positive mood is reported after being off-task. Specifically when off-task episodes are rated for interest, the high interest episodes are associated with an increase in positive mood compared to all on-task episodes. These findings both identify a situation in which mind-wandering may have positive effects on mood, and suggest the possible benefits of encouraging individuals to shift their off-task musings to the topics they find most engaging.

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