Watching Television Makes You Only Slightly Happier Than Commuting

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Over at the Atlantic, Paul Bloom writes that we’re generally less happy when our minds are wandering. He bases this mostly on a bit of research published a few years ago in which people with iPhones were pinged periodically and asked to report their current level of happiness:

Multilevel regression revealed that people were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not, and this was true during all activities….Although negative moods are known to cause mind wandering, time-lag analyses strongly suggested that mind wandering in our sample was generally the cause, and not merely the consequence, of unhappiness….What people were thinking was a better predictor of their happiness than was what they were doing. The nature of people’s activities explained 4.6% of the within-person variance in happiness…but mind wandering explained 10.8% of within-person variance in happiness.

Interesting! But I was actually a little more taken by the chart showing reported happiness during various kinds of activities. There’s surprisingly little variation between stuff usually considered horrible and stuff usually considered enjoyable. Take a look at the red circles. Commuting produces only slightly less happiness than average. Housework is dead average. Watching television is only slightly better than housework and commuting.

Among common activities, rest and working are the worst, while playing and talking are the best. Working on a home computer is worse than commuting—which I probably could have guessed. But who knows? Maybe computers have gotten more enjoyable since 2010.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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