For about a third of our waking day, our minds are lost in a world that has little or nothing to do with the task at hand. That’s about five hours a day of daydreaming, and if that’s really the case, I figure it had better be good for us.
Interestingly, neuroscientists describe our brain as having two separate ‘networks’: an administrative network, which we use when we’re busy accomplishing a task, and a default network, which is the one that we automatically revert to when we’re at rest or not concentrating on something. In other words, the default network ‘switches off’ when we need to focus. And when one network is ‘lit up,’ the other is not.
However, when we daydream, both networks are lit up at the same time.
There are lots of theories as to why this may be so, but nothing conclusive, except this: people who are prone to daydreaming, and whose networks are working simultaneously, score higher on creativity tests and are more able to ‘think outside the box.’ Research has also connected daydreaming with healthy social adaptability and improved school and work performance. One Australian researcher found that “children who don’t get enough down time to daydream or who fill in their down time with too much television produce works that are “tedious and unimaginative.”
Daydreaming is perhaps one of the most underrated things we all do. It’s usually considered a waste of time, annoying, or even rude. It makes your parents nervous, it makes your teachers edgy. If you look up ‘daydreaming’ in Google, the third entry states – without controversy – that “daydreaming is a behavioral disorder.” Freud claims that daydreaming is a neurosis or psychosis.
Well, it’s time to set aside those lousy admonishments, and get on with the delightful, freewheeling experience of mind wandering.
Fun Writing Practice – Daydream
Put down your pen or turn off your computer and look out the window. Stand under some pine trees and let your mind wander. Or sit in the shade of a taverna and nibble on olives. Or lie on the couch in your living room. Is there a beach nearby? Don’t listen to the waves – let them just be. Don’t talk. Forget about the word count. Don’t worry. Do nothing. Turn off the telephone, hide the remote, close your journal, ignore the box of letters that you have to respond to.
See what dreams and ideas drift to you instead of you chasing after them.
- Planting the daylilies
- Nowhere to go
- An appreciative note
- Dancing at an afternoon tea party
- The depth of being
- Realizing how small we are
- Dozing during a picnic on the castle grounds
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