What are the positive effects of daydreaming?
Have you ever wondered how different your life would be if you won the multi-million lottery prize pool? Maybe you have gone as far as wondering how much you would have given your family, the investments you wanted to make. How about that vacation outside the country you have been drooling over? How different will life have been? Then you realize that you do not even take the time to bet on your magic winning numbers. So much for wishful thinking!
Daydreaming: What is it?
Daydreaming is a state of consciousness when the brain triggers a thought process not bound by a person’s immediate surroundings. Most commonly, daydreaming revolves around possibilities — “what if’s”, if you may, that are not bound by your current perception of what is real.
Some of us daydream about the possibilities of being able to fly. Some daydream about how the world would be if there was no conflict about whatsoever. As grandiose as it can be, daydreaming can be very small in contrast but personal, nonetheless — I am pretty sure a lot of us have daydreamed about how it would be like if we have gotten to marry our high school sweethearts!
On a deeper level, the two most common daydream themes revolve around a person either playing a martyr or hero role. In both situations, people tend to see how their lives would have been if they played one of these roles in a situation simulated by their brain.
When people think about the consequences of their would-be actions, the possible pain they might cause on people, and therefore deciding against it ultimately, that is the martyr role. On the other side, when a person daydreams about situations like having super powers or the ability to do things they would normally be unable to do, that is the hero role at play.
A person who daydreams will always be staring off in the distance, with his brain ‘toying’ with different ideas and ‘what ifs’. At the same time, the body is in an idle state. An iconic representation of such in modern media is when a person rests his chin against his arm while he stares out the window. This physical state is the key contributor to the biggest stigma around daydreaming: laziness. How this is so can be traced to as far back as the 19th century.
The late 19th century was called “The age of The Industrial Revolution”. During this time in history, bold leaps and massive advancements in agriculture, manufacturing, technology and the like contributed greatly to the sudden and immense economic improvement of many countries. As this was the age of man’s full utilization of his tools, anyone who daydreams is easily spotted simply because he is not hammering away like he is supposed to.
Another example was how daydreaming is conventionally perceived as a negative practice in schools. As academics require consistent focus during classes, anyone who daydreams was considered distracted or uninterested.
6 Positive Effects Of Daydreaming
In recent years, it has been found that there are benefits to daydreaming. Studies have been conducted all over the globe with the expressed purpose of understanding and appreciating this little quirk our brain does with our bodies. Some notable positive effects of daydreaming are listed below.
In a 1980s study conducted by Dr. Eric Klinger, a Psychology Professor of the University of Minnesota, it has been stated that daydreams help us in coping with life’s many challenges. He states that, much like night dreaming (dreaming when you are asleep), daydreaming allows the brain to compile what we have experienced throughout the day which, in turn, becomes material for reflection and self-assessment.
Incidentally, these moments of reflection and self-assessment also occur within our daydreaming state. Such reflections allow us to better understand situations and, more importantly, other people. It is through this understanding of other people that we become more open-minded, empathetic and mindful of those around us.
Another great positive effect to daydreaming is relaxation. On average, daydreaming lasts around 14 seconds per session. These sessions are always triggered by your brain without you asking for it. Yes, that is how your brain works — it does what it wants, when it wants, but that is not to say that the brain does it for no reason. When we daydream, the brain tries to “semi-shut off” some of our basic functions to rest. This is why we sometimes lose track of time when we are in this state.
Another good example is that we tend to stare off into space when, in fact, we are not aware of what we are looking at all. Fun thought: have you ever been accused of staring at someone when, in reality, you are not? Now is the perfect time to blame your brain for its timing.
Learn more: How To Achieve A Relaxed State Of Mind
As much as it is a means for the brain to relax, it is also your brain’s means of exercising. One thing worth noting about the brain is that each of its parts has very specific, albeit independent tasks.
Some are in charge of ensuring that your heart beats while others ensure that your eyes blink and your lungs keep on pumping air. Some are in charge of monitoring the heat, cold, pain and pressure receptors of your skin. The list goes on and on.
When we daydream, as some of these areas are momentarily shut down, the areas of your brain in charge of imagination and memory recall are hard at work. These are the parts of your brain that receive the well needed exercise.
Learn more: Top 10 Benefits Of Positive Visualization
As a specie, humans are the most expressive and aggressive about our creative outlets. Though most commonly used for the arts and music, ‘creativity’ is really a very broad term; at any instance a person ‘thinks outside the box’ or applies a conventional solution to an unconventional problem (or vice-versa), his creativity is being tapped. As mentioned earlier, when we daydream, we are disconnected from our immediate surroundings. This situation allows the mind to start entertaining many different possibilities that don’t necessarily adhere with the rules of reality.
A lot of distinguished artists in various fields have admitted to the fact that daydreaming helped them immensely in their craft. You have J.K. Rowling and Woody Allen to name a few. Furthermore, Sigmund Freud had an informal talk in 1907 titled “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming”, which touched on the positive correlation between daydreaming and a creative writer’s capacity to imagine. This talk was then published in 1908, eventually influencing a lot of people.
Leran more: 17 Benefits of Creative Visualization
5. Memory recall
A recent research conducted in the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science and the University of Wisconsin has defined that daydreaming improves what we call as “working memory”.
Working memory is basically a person’s capacity to remember minute details even after subsequent exposure to distractions. Here is an example of poor working memory: You were to enter a room with a purpose in mind when a co-worker greeted you “good morning!” down the hall. When you entered the room, you have forgotten what you were supposed to do in there.
In this case, the detail to have been remembered was your reason for entering the room (which was forgotten) and the distraction was your co-worker greeting you. Since daydreaming exercises your capacity to recall and reflect on memories and sometimes, serves as a distraction in itself, it conditions your brain to have better emphasis in recalling such types of memories.
6. Stress relief
It is worth noting that daydreams are not exclusive to positive thoughts. A lot of us daydream about negative possibilities about certain situations. You may have experienced such daydreams at one time: it can be when you were worried about a presentation you were to give to a room full of colleagues, or about how mad your parents would be if they found out you went out that one time with friends without their consent.
The stress relief part in daydreaming is when you actually start seeing these thoughts as simulations — here, you have a good feel of what reactions or contingencies you can think out of your personal catastrophes. With a little practice, such level of daydreaming turns into an outlet and a rationalized way of telling yourself that everything will be alright.
Despite taking the backseat in terms of scientific interest over the years, multiple researches have had daydreaming as their core topic of intrigue. The collective conclusion found in these studies is that daydreaming is not that bad at all. It is clear to see that the numerous positive effects of daydreaming outweigh the archaic drawback once believed decades ago.
In the grander scale of things related to the human brain, it is fascinating that such a small, often overlooked, mental behavior contributes greatly to the well-being of a person’s mental and physiological health. One cannot help but wonder what other interestingly mind-blowing secrets our brains have to hide. Maybe, just maybe, someone out there will scream ‘Eureka!’ as another great idea is borne out of a few seconds of daydreaming.