Depression, Happiness, Productivity, Stress/Worry

Daydreaming

Daydreaming &

The Wandering Mind

“Everything starts as somebody’s daydream.” -Larry Niven

What is Daydreaming?

Do you ever find yourself fantasizing about anything and everything? Maybe as a way of keeping yourself busy and distracted by thoughts of the future, possibilities, and the what-if’s of life? Do you get lost in these thoughts for the sake of them bringing you a sense of joy and peace? If so, you may be daydreaming. Daydreaming can be described as thoughts of the imagination that act as a distraction from the present and reality.

Frequency of Daydreaming

Daydreams tends to come and go throughout our days, lasting for both long and short periods of time. According to Psychology Today, research has shown that “as many as 96% of adults engage in having at least one bout of daily fantasies”. Although they can sometimes seem sporadic and short-lived, daydreaming actually takes up a much more significant amount of time than one may guess; as it is estimated that up to half of our lives are spent imagining and daydreaming.

Why Do You Daydream?

There are different reasons and beliefs as to why people find themselves lost in thought and thinking about the possibilities of life. Some of these reasons include:

  • Daydreaming about the future
    • Thinking about something that may be happening in the near or long-term future
      • Prompted by anxiety of the future
      • Prompted by the excitement of the future
  • Losing focus during a task/boredom
    • The mind can wander when we are bored with an activity or everyday chore
      • Working, reading, watching television

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Psychological Benefits of Daydreaming

Whether you find yourself having short bouts or long-term spells of daydreaming, there are in fact positive side effects from daydreaming. Dr. Muireann Irish, who studies the neurobiology of daydreaming in people suffering from dementia at the Neuroscience Research Australia, admits that daydreaming has a bad reputation. She has stated that “many people view daydreaming as being detrimental or a waste of time or a bad use of mental power”. When in reality there are indeed benefits to daydreaming, according to wakeup-world.com, there are 5 psychological benefits to daydreaming:

  1. Creativity & problem solving
    1. When we allow our mind to wander, we can come up with different, new and innovative ways to do things and solve problems
  2. Enhanced memory
    1. Studies have found a correlation between daydreaming and working memory (the ability to conserve and recall data and details when we are distracted)
  3. Empathy
    1. Daydreamers have the power of imagination and therefore have the ability to imagine themselves in another person’s situation, demonstrating empathy for others
  4. Focus
    1. The use of modern technology as a form of distraction for the mind to reset our focus
  5. Incubation
    1. Daydreaming allows our unconscious minds to present themselves in our present lives

Psychological Negatives of Daydreaming

Although it is refreshing to learn that there are benefits of daydreaming, we are more familiar with the notion of daydreaming having a bad rap. Some of the negative side effects of daydreaming include:

  • Creates unproductivity
    • If a person becomes constantly distracted for long periods of time, they can lose total sense of focus and purpose
    • This can be detrimental in the workplace if you are needing to meet goals and project deadlines
  • Forgetfulness
    • If a person gets lost in their thoughts, they may lose sight of what they were supposed to be doing or where they were supposed to be going
  • Cause for injury
    • Daydreaming can be physically harmful if the mind wanders while doing something physical (exercising, moving something heavy, or operating an appliance or machine)
  • Negative thoughts
    • Somebody who daydreams perpetually about negative, not positive, thoughts or ideas can spiral down a dark tunnel

Negative Daydreaming Effects on Mental Health

The word daydream sounds fantasy-like, filled with positive and luxurious thoughts and opportunities for the future. However, this is not always the case. Sadly, if a person gets distracted regularly with negative thoughts about oneself this can lead to very serious mental health issues, including:

  • Depression
    • When distracting thoughts are filled with poor images and views of oneself, a person may experience feelings of depression
  • Suicide
    • If a person spends their mind wandering time envisioning themself inflicting self harm or committing suicide, this can be extremely dangerous
  • Anxiety
    • Negative thoughts may create even more worry and fear about yourself and the future

If you or somebody you know daydreams about negative thoughts, images, or emotions please reach out for professional help immediately.

Modern Day Daydreaming

“Get off your phone!” Sound familiar? Whether this is something your spouse is constantly nagging at you about, or you are working on this as a self goal, it is very common in our current culture. Our phones have become a source of addiction for many people in today’s society. We use our phones to do things such as surf the web, flip through Instagram photos, and swipe right (or left) on dating apps. Although this can be sour for our social communication, interpersonal relationships, and ability to stay present in the moment, it also serves as a source of daydreaming. When we tune out the outside world, we tune into our phones to refocus and quiet ourselves from the world around us.

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Tips to Stay Present

Regardless of whether your daydreaming thoughts are serving you positively or negatively in your personal life, it is always a healthy reminder to stay present for the sake of ourselves and others around us. Here are a few ways you can try to stay more present in your life:

  • Get rid of junk and items in your home that do not serve a purpose to you anymore, these items can sometimes act as physical distractions for the mind
  • Change up your routine
  • Stay busy
  • Find new hobbies
  • Discover new interests
  • Set new goals
  • Mediation (for the sake of silencing the mind)
  • Mindful breathing

Resources:

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