If dreams are wishes our hearts make, daydreams are plans our brains make.
At least that is what I’ve come to believe.
Long before I moved from Miami to Los Angeles, my heart had flown west. A slew of hurricanes hit coastal Florida, putting a huge damper in my Get-me-there-now! plans. While the city was shut down, I daydreamed like crazy. I imagined myself booking enough fashion or film work to make X-amount of money, taking the funds to the bank then flying to Tinseltown, ready to take it by (no pun intended) storm. Two months later, I booked a job that paid the precise amount I’d set my sights on. I’ve been trusting my daydreams ever since.
A little daydreamy background
For years, daydreaming was considered a major drawback—a failure of mental discipline by scientists and the gateway to psychosis, according to psychological texts. A growing body of research has revealed the near opposite: Daydreams aren’t only common, but frequently beneficial.
When reality fails to intrigue us, we begin exploring our connectedness to the world and ponder imaginary scenarios. Unlike multitasking, which is literally impossible, daydreaming allows our thoughts to escape reality while our physical self stays present. (This is one reason phone use while driving is highly dangerous, but daydreaming while cleaning is not.)
I’d venture to guess that many artists knew daydreaming was beneficial all along. What writer doesn’t spend ample time “zoned out” or “in the clouds,” right? It’s practically a prerequisite. ;) The import thing, according to experts, is recognizing when we’re daydreaming and embracing the epiphanies when they arise. Then we can reap a variety of benefits, including:
Relaxation. Ever noticed the way time goes faster while you’re stuck in traffic or enduring a lengthy flight once your thoughts take over? Rather than feeling bored, daydreaming can instill a sort of meditative respite. And since stress can hinder creativity and overall brain function, daydreaming for R&R is invaluable—especially for non-nappers.
Maintained relationships. “We daydream about the people we love,” said James Honeycutt, PhD, professor and author of Imagined Interactions: Daydreaming about Communication in an interview with WebMD. “We imagine sharing good news with them, along with our successes and failures.” In other words, we need not be physically absent for our hearts to grow fonder.
Conflict resolution. Ever hit a roadblock in a creative project only to come up with a solution seemingly at random? You’re folding laundry when a-HA! The answer illuminates. A study conducted at the University of British Columbia in 2009 showed that the brain recruits complex regions of the brain associated with problem solving during daydreams.
Increased productivity, creativity and success. A wandering mind is crucial to creativity, says researcher, Jonathan Schooler. If we spend all of our time focused on reality or working without respite, our creativity and productivity suffer.
There’s a reason athletes visualize gold medals; it works. We have to do the footwork, of course, but imagining successful goal-reaching increases our odds of stepping toward them.
How important do you consider daydreaming? Any daydreams-come-true stories to share?