Are you a Daydreamer?
Yes, of course, you are! Remember those times when as a kid you use to drift off into your imagination; when you were an actor from a hit movie, you had superpowers and above all you were a grown-up. How can you not! That was the only way to tolerated boring classes. Even as an adult you often find yourself enacting an upcoming job interview or a presentation; you imagine what questions people might ask you, you picture yourself answering those questions fiercely. That is Daydreaming!
Daydreaming is a process of exploring an imaginative world that is not related to a person’s immediate surroundings. Daydream could be highly fictionalized, filled with alien armies and superpower or it can also be very realistic. It’s basically like stimulation but here your brain is doing all the job, no VR goggles or computer application needed.
Whoops, Yang, a visual artist from South Korea created a space out competition in 2014; where contestants in order to win, have to stare off into space for the longest time without losing focus or dozing off. In his interview with Vice, he said that he designed this event to highlight how much people have been overworking their brains and how much they stand to gain from taking a break.
Is Daydreaming Good or Bad for your Mental Health?
Daydreaming is the easiest and accessible way to give your brain a break from your regular routine. So, let’s see whether Daydreaming is good or bad for your brain.
Interesting Facts about Daydreaming
- Daydreams are Controlled by Your Brain
We often use brain and mind as interchangeable terms which is not true, the brain is a tangible organ of our body whereas, the mind is an intangible part that transcends our consciousness, thoughts, judgments, language, and memory.
According to Anthony Jack, a cognitive scientist, we have a propensity to think that our mind is at driving seat and brain as a follower but actually their relation goes both ways. In an article on daydreaming published by National Geographic Jack stated that our brain fluctuates in certain ways due to its structure and these fluctuations determine the structure of our daydreams.
- Our Brain Prefers Multitasking
Our brain releases a neurotransmitter known as dopamine, every time it successfully completes a task. Dopamine is directly linked to addiction when released, it provides pleasure and satisfaction.
Dopamine is a major reason why our brain likes to multitask; it acts as a reward after each accomplished task. Daydreaming while performing regular chores gives that false sense of accomplishment to our brain.
- We do Daydreaming More Often Than We Realise
In an article published in The Harvard Gazette in 2010, psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Matthew A. Killingworth mentioned that people spend 46.9% of their waking hours daydreaming.
- Daydreaming Causes Unhappiness
The study by Harvard psychologists used 250,000 data points collected by iPhone web apps. These apps are designed to interrupt more than 2,250 volunteers at regular intervals with questions like how happy they were, what they were doing, and whether they were thinking about the task at hand or something else.
The study claims to have found people to be typically unhappy when their mind was wandering. In their study they found people to be less happy when they were daydreaming than when they were focused on their work.
Positive Aspects of Daydreaming
- Daydreams Can Be Very Relaxing
For many daydreaming about their favorite holiday destination or re-living their pleasant memories has proven to be very relaxing. After a long day of taxing work daydreaming about pleasant places and events from the past or future is like a minivacation for your brain.
- Daydreaming Boosts Your Creativity
Daydreams are structured by our brain; it uses all the latest details from different parts of our brains. Details that had never come together in the same context before are now visible. This exercise allows us to see the different patterns that we otherwise would not have.
Because of this, daydreamers are often very creative people. Many studies have suggested that people who report frequent daydreaming also score higher on intellectual and creative abilities.
- Daydreaming also Works as a Stress Reliever
In any stress, situation daydreaming is proven to be an ideal stress reliever. If you are going through hardship in your professional life or just having some frequent arguments with your partner that is escalating stress in your life, daydreaming allows your brain to switch off from those situations and gives you a pleasant break.
These sorts of pleasant breaks could really go a long way when it comes to keeping your sanity during rough times.
- Daydreaming can Help You Gain Perspective
Never have this ever happened that you are in Zen mode and a problem came and you just solved it right away. Almost always situations escalate and the stress and exhaustion of the situation cloud your vision, so much so that sometimes you can’t even see the obvious solutions for the simplest of your problems.
Daydreaming allows your brain to escape this exhaustion and gives your mind enough peace, for it to find a new perspective. With a new perspective, you can solve your problems or you can finish the project that you have been struggling with for months.
- Daydreaming is Good for Your Relationship
Globalization turned the world into our oyster; with the help of technology no matter how far we are from our friends, family, and partner we can connect with them within a second. But the common phrase like ‘long-distance relationships never works’ still stands relevant.
It is very common for the geographical distance between lovers, friends, or family to result in the emotional distance in relationships. Often this becomes the main cause for breakup amongst partners and detachment with parents and friends. It has been noticed in various studies that daydreaming about being with your partner, friends or family makes our brain feel closer to them. It gives you the experience of the same feelings that you have had when you spent time with them. It helps you feel less lonely and makes you feel emotionally closer to them.
- Daydreams can be Used to Solve Problem
Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, a professor of psychiatry at Ut Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas, Texas has stated that “Daydreaming allows you to often develop problem-solving strategies for your personal activities or personal issues”.
Daydreaming about a particular situation that has happened in the past or you are anticipating in the future allows your brain to come up with different scenarios. While daydreaming about past scenarios you might find a different and more approachable way that you could have solved that problem, and take a mental for future reoccurrence of the same or similar problem. You can also imagine different future obstacles and strategies on how to deal with them if they happen to occur in real-time.
Negative Effects of Daydreaming
- Daydreaming Make You Forgetful
Forgetfulness is a common side effect of daydreaming; daydreamers are often addressed as absent-minded for this very reason. It has been noticed that people who frequently daydream tend to forget past events and details.
Research by Doctors Peter Delaney and Lili Sahakyan was published in Scientific American in 2010 explaining that daydreaming can cause forgetting of events. They suggested that the further back or forward in time daydream reaches, the more prevalent forgetting effects are going to be.
- Daydreaming Causes You to Lose Focus
While daydreaming your brain is working to create a simulation for your dream, and you are not focusing on your work. This could prove to be very disastrous if your job requires your unwavering attention (i.e. surgeon or a factory machine operator).
Often your daily life and job is not as eventful and exciting as you want it to be this causes you to spend more time in your La-La Land. The crisis begins when daydreaming overtakes your everyday life so much so you’re unable to concentrate on things that are in the present, that you are supposed to be doing.
- Daydreams can Magnify Negative Thinking
Not everyone is daydreaming about receiving Nobel Prize or about their perfect love story. People who often have negative thoughts also daydream about their negative thoughts. For example, they might be dreaming about someone confronting them, being humiliated by their boss, or a future where they have failed to achieve everything that they set out to.
Sometimes people daydream about past events where they feel ridiculed or humiliated. Revisiting breakups and arguments, again and again, mess up with a person’s current mood. A negative thought is magnified by the elaborate plot of negative daydreams.
- Daydreaming Pushes You Further into Depression
Daydreaming enables our brain to create a whole separate world in our head. This for a person who is depressed and trying to avoid people is very tempting. It replaces human connection, as a depressed person falls further into depression.
Daydreaming about negative situations stops them from bouncing back. If friends or family invites them to hang out or party, their negative daydreams give them plenty of reason to not go. Often with depression daydreaming starts as a positive and happier world than their reality, which is preferred over a real depressed world. But with time it changes into a negative place for the real world, where every real-world problem is magnified and that keeps the depressed person from recovering.
- Daydreams Affect Your Learning Ability
Daydreaming during classes is very common amongst students; be it a tough subject that they can’t wrap their head around or boring subject that can’t seem to care for. But these daydreams are making these subjects harder and more boring for them as they are not paying attention during class, with each class it is getting harder for them to catch up on those missed lectures.
This messes up with their grades and future, not to mention their ability to ever learn these subjects.
- Too Much Daydreaming Leads to Mental Health Problems
On one hand, daydreaming is associated with various mental disorders, on the other, those suffering from excessive daydreaming are asking for it to be recognized as a separate psychiatric problem.
Maladaptive daydreaming (MD) is a stage where a person engages in vivid, elaborated, and fanciful daydreaming for hours. This extensive daydreaming causes them to abandon real-life relationships and responsibilities.
This phenomenon has been attracting the attention of many psychologists ever since various online support groups have emerged, where people suffering from MD are sharing their struggles and providing each other with pear support.
Precautions That Can Help You Have Healthy Daydreams
- Set a Time and Duration for Daydreaming
Setting up a fixed time and duration for your mind to wander would help you gain all the benefits from daydreaming while avoiding the negative consequence that comes with it. This way you can choose the time when your work is not affected by it and you won’t be spending too much time daydreaming.
Psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Matthew A. Killingworth’s finding suggests that people felt guilty of the fact that they were daydreaming during their work hours, which contributes to the unhappiness that is experienced by many after daydreaming. Setting up a fixed time and duration can help take that guilt away from you.
- Goal-Oriented Daydreaming
Also known as structure and hopeful daydreaming is proven to be useful in achieving a goal. Goal-oriented daydreaming is frequently practiced by athletes and marketing people, in this approach a person daydreams about what they want to achieve and how they are achieving it.
This way they don’t let negative thought affect their action and the already experienced feeling of victory and achievement gives them the required push to actually achieve their goals. This approach also helps you discover new and effective ways to achieve your goals.
- Organized Daydreaming
It involves daydreaming about various ways to solve an existing or future conflict that may arise. This way you can use daydreams as a tool that can help you deal with an ongoing stressful situation and also prepare you for future scenarios.
- Approach Oriented Daydreaming
The approach-oriented daydreaming is associated with accomplishing something positive out of the experience. This approach can be proven significantly effective in social situations.
Previously we discussed how daydreaming about loved ones can help keep the emotional connection alive especially in long-distance relationships. With approach-oriented daydreams, you can experience more love, happiness, and connection in relations.
- Avoidance Oriented Daydreaming
For people who have a tendency of negative thinking, avoidance-oriented daydreaming is a must for them. For negative thinkers, it is necessary to know their triggers, if you don’t already know your triggers try to notice your mood fluctuations for a week; you will learn about it. In an avoidance-oriented daydream, your goal is to avoid your triggers while daydreaming, that way you won’t sink in your negative daydreams.
Jerome L. Singer a Psychology Professor from the Yale School of Medicine very beautifully phrased daydreaming as our ability to give ‘to airy nothing a local habitation and a name’. It is this ability that takes us from a mundane cubical of our office to the magnificent streets of our childhood memories. I find it difficult to label daydreaming as a bad habit when it brings joy in so many lives. I find it equally difficult to call it a good habit as those who are suffering from its negative consequences are still fighting to be recognized. That is why it is important to be informed, to know how you can moderate and steer your daydreams so that they can’t become a source of negative consequences for you.