A recent psychological study found that most people are uncomfortable doing nothing and being alone with their thoughts, and would rather actually be physically doing something, even if it’s something negative in nature.
A series of studies, the finding of which are published in the journal Science, participants from various ages were found not to enjoy spending even very short time periods in a room by themselves doing nothing but thinking. Instead, the participants were much more apt to do something, no matter how mundane. A few participants even preferred to inflict a small level of pain – such as through an electric shock – instead of doing nothing on their own.
According to Psychology Today, spending some time alone with one’s thoughts can help to improve relationships and even help work through life’s most pressing issues more effectively.
U.Va. psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues at U.Va. and Harvard University started looking at college students in their first few studies, and found that most were not content spending even as little as six minutes thinking and pondering. Wilson and colleagues than conducted further studies from a variety of backgrounds, ranging in age from 18 to 77. The results were essentially the same.
“Those of us who enjoy some down time to just think likely find the results of this study surprising – I certainly do – but our study participants consistently demonstrated that they would rather have something to do than to have nothing other than their thoughts for even a fairly brief period of time,” said Wilson in a study.
The researchers were surprised to find that even older adults experienced similar discomfort being alone to think on their own. Wilson doesn’t necessarily attribute such findings to the fast-paced society in which we live, but rather the fundamental desire to always be doing something.