The relationship between mind wandering and subjective well-being
: a cross sectional study of depression, anxiety, stress, sleep quality, positive affect and motivation.

  • Louise C G Driver

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science (MSc)


Frequent mind wandering has previously been found to predict poorer well-being (e.g. Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010). Many previous studies of mind wandering are based on experience sampling, asking questions about current focus and well-being. However, this study employed a cross-sectional survey design. Phase 2 of the Bristol Well-Being Group (BWBG) questionnaire was completed electronically by members of the general population (n = 638). Questions probed general well-being and mind wandering over the past 6 weeks. Factor analysis revealed three types of mind wandering: negative, neutral and positive and a fourth factor indicating preference for external engagement. The survey also examined well-being and revealed a 29-factor structure. Six of these well-being factors were examined for their relationship with different kinds of mind wandering: depression, anxiety, stress, sleep quality, positive affect and motivation. Results indicated that frequent neutral and negative mind wandering predicted poorer well-being on virtually all of these well-being dimensions. Positive mind wandering was found to increase positive affect and motivation and reduce low mood but did not significantly predict anxiety, sleep quality or stress. Mediation analyses demonstrated that the influence of negative and neutral mind wandering on mood was associated with complex patterns of mediation. For example, although negative mind wandering predicted stress, this effect was fully mediated by depression, anxiety and sleep quality. This study displays that cross-sectional measures of mind wandering predict levels of well-being with large effect sizes and emphasises the importance of understanding the negative effects of mind wandering in order to generate further theory and efficiently establish interventions which prevent poor well-being and potential onset of mental health conditions.
Date of Award29 Sep 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorC W Pleydell-Pearce (Supervisor)

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