Were you ever given into trouble at school for daydreaming? Many of us were and have grown up believing that losing ourselves in a daydream is a bad thing. But there is now research that shows that there are numerous health benefits of daydreaming. And that is great news for those of us who like to let our minds wander. Or perhaps it will now give you permission to daydream a little every day.
What does Daydreaming mean?
Daydreaming means letting your mind wander and thinking for pleasure. It is not rumination or focusing on the negative. It is time to think on nice things and happy things.
What is daydreaming?
Recent research this year by Westgate et al in the journal, Emotion, shows that daydreaming or thinking for pleasure has many health benefits.
6 Benefits Of Daydreaming
1. Reducing stress and anxiety
Daydreaming about positive things reduces stress and anxiety Taking a few minutes out of your busy day to let your mind wander reduces your levels of stress and anxiety and breaks the cycle of negative thinking or rumination.
2. Improving your physical health
Daydreaming improves your physical health and when you reduce your stress levels you have a knock-on effect on your physical health.
3. Improving your creativity
Research shows that daydreaming increases your creativity. Allowing your mind to wander uses a different part of your brain and that’s when you often come up with good ideas.
4. Helping you visualise and realise our goals
Daydreaming isn’t a waste of time. You can use that time to focus on positive thoughts about your life and future to get clarity on what you want.
5. Helping you problem solve
Just like with creativity, allowing the brain to wander allows space for different thoughts to connect and solve issues. How many times have you found a solution when out for a walk?
6. Giving your brain a rest
Daydreaming uses different parts of your brain (and gives our prefrontal cortex a rest). The brain, especially the prefrontal cortex, needs time to switch off and recalibrate regularly.
The science behind daydreaming
Research this year at UC Berkeley shows that our minds naturally wander 50% of the time.
Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that mind-wandering is an important cognitive process. In other words, it is good for us and can lead us to new ideas or innovations.
The researchers at Berkeley said “Babies and young children’s minds seem to wander constantly, and so we wondered what functions that might serve.” Through monitoring brain waves they found 2 important results:
Relaxation- The alpha waves that show up when your mind is wandering mean you are relaxing. And your brain cannot maintain focus and productivity without regular periods of relaxation.
Problem solving – It may seem counterintuitive, but letting our thoughts wander can actually help you solve problems when focusing on them does not work.
4 Daydreaming examples to get started
Here are some tips to get started:
Give yourself permission to daydream
Practice every day to develop the skill and take note of the benefits you feel.
Think of positive, happy and pleasant things
This is not the time to ruminate on problems or worry about your to-do list.
I suggest planning some daily daydreaming every day
Focus on positive ideas and people to think about such as close loved ones, friends, being in your favourite place, visualising yourself in the future, or doing something fun, traveling, relaxing in a soothing bubble bath, really anything that is associated with pleasure and happiness.
Combining daydreaming with a more mundane task
Try combining daydreaming with a more mundane task such as washing the dishes, hanging up laundry or taking a shower. When the brain is slightly occupied, we are more likely to daydream.
If you are feeling anxious or stressed at home or at work, simply take your attention away from the task at hand, think of something pleasant and allow your mind to wander for a few minutes. This will instantly shut off the overthinking, worrying part of your brain and allow you to destress and to feel calmer. Thinking for pleasure can be a powerful tool to shape our emotions, make us feel happier and reduce our stress.
You can read more on daydreaming in an article I contributed to for Thrive Global.
Happiness Evangelist, Life Coach, Best-Selling Author and Speaker with over 30 years of experience, helping you to live a happy and fulfilling life.
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