I remember being told to stop daydreaming in school and at home constantly. As someone who loves fiction, imaginative movies, and was Harry Potter obsessed, it’s not too far-fetched that I would let my mind wander, specifically when I was bored during math in elementary school, science in middle and high school, and various “required” classes in college. While I wasn’t going too far from reality, it seemed exciting and refreshing to let my mind wander.
Daydreaming is something we usually see as a negative – we don’t want kids to do it in school, we don’t want adults doing it at work, and we surely don’t want to do it in conversations. So why should we daydream?
Tap Out to Tap In
Ever get in those moments where you stop focusing on something and suddenly you have the answer you were looking for? That’s one of the reasons you should tap into daydreaming! If you think about the goal and let your mind wander, instead of being intensely focused on the work going into it, you’ll find new and creative solutions and paths to get where you’re going! The science weighs in, too: back to Freud believing that daydreaming can alter our perception of reality, allowing us to feel more positively about situations and work through them. See, you’re not wasting time, you’re working to the future!
Real talk: too many brainstorming sessions are boring and don’t tap into creativity. Often we’re issuing “safe” suggestions that aren’t helpful to creating something new. Cue daydreaming! By giving yourself some additional space to create and just relax focused thoughts, you’ll be able to come up with creative solutions and brainstorming contributions in a much easier way. Similar to the above win, by giving yourself time to think big, you relax those failure muscles because you’re allowing yourself to go bigger than you usually would.
Reality can be rough – why do you think scrolling on social media seems to be a pastime for so many people? You’re getting out of reality! This is where daydreaming can aid in that stress relief: by removing the focus from the negative – that thing that might be causing discomfort – you’re easing a lot of that stress! When you let your mind wander, you remove it from the stress. A 2016 study out of the University of British Columbia even shows that moving your focus away from anxiety will reduce the anxiety.
Flex Your Brain
In case the last three wins aren’t enough for you, how about this one: daydreaming for pleasure, namely letting your mind move to thoughts that are both enjoyable and meaningful, you’re helping your brain and expanding your thinking! Recent studies from Emotion magazine outline how doing more than simply letting it wander, you’re flexing innovation and cognitive function.
So How Do We Start?
If you’re a scheduler, I firmly believe that you should schedule some time to brainstorm. Give yourself time to drift – and not a time when you’re doing major tasks! You can do something that doesn’t need a lot of focus, like laundry, and let yourself go. This isn’t dedicated time to create a to-do list or run through what your dinner plans look like: this is time to let your brain go! Start with something simple, like five or ten minutes. Let it happen, don’t stress, and think about things that bring you joy. After, reflect a bit – how was it? Did you feel nervous or uncomfortable? Once you’ve done it once, work on building your skill – keep doing it! Daydreaming, shockingly enough, is a skill – and you have to focus on it to make it easier. Good luck, and sweet dreams!