By Adrian Gillison
It starts in childhood. The inside of your bedroom or a classroom recedes and you become a waitress or an astronaut. You are a parent with a baby or a cowboy riding across the flat land of a desert. You don’t just see the images; you feel the sensations. The heat of the wind blowing across the sand ruffles your hair. The horse beneath you quickly bumps you up and down in the saddle.
When we get older, thoughts wander less into fantasy scenarios and more into ideal life situations. You say exactly the right thing to your crush. You have fantastic sex with your partner. You give the best presentation of your life. And, in those moments, your body responds as if those things were happening in real life.
We all do it, but that isn’t because we are encouraged. Teachers and employers alike, even people we are dating or whom we have married chide us for disappearing into our own minds. It’s seen as disrespectful or fanciful. It’s definitely a sign that you stopped paying attention to the world and people that surround you. But, it is rarely seen as beneficial, which is sad because it is.
Think of it as a vacation for the mind with a variety of benefits.
Daydreaming Improves Your Health
There is evidence that daydreaming can function as a low-level form of self-hypnosis. When you enact dream scenarios in your head, you often prepare yourself for an event, like a job interview or a date. This can result in a lowered stress level, and we all know that decreased stress is linked to benefits like:
- Improved sleep quality
- Improved digestion
- Improved ability to cope with daily life
- Improved focus
- Increased lifespan
- Decreased levels of depression
- Improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of fatal cardiovascular disease
- Improved immune system
It can also lead to better sleep, which also imparts health benefits.
Daydreaming Can Improve Your Memory
When you let your mind wander, it isn’t always to fictional scenarios. It can also be used to hone existing memories. When we imagine things from our own perspective, we can recollect specific information when we require it. This means that people who need memory rehabilitation can use imagination exercises to counter impairments.
Daydreaming is also linked to working memory, the mental workspace that allows you to multitask your thinking. A study into the relationship between daydreaming and working memory revealed people whose tasks required little thinking often daydreamed because they had additional working memory resources.
Daydreaming Can Help You Feel Closer to the People Around You
There are a few different types of daydreams. One type is approach oriented; these are concerned with achieving positive outcomes. Another is avoidance oriented; these are concerned with avoiding negative outcomes. Research shows approach oriented daydreams are often linked to positive social feelings. In addition to actual events and interactions, the imagination shapes everyday feelings about those around us. Daydreams are associated with increased love and connection. These results are connected specifically to relationships involving people with whom we share a significant relationship.
Daydreaming Exercises Your Brain
Daydreaming can be hard work for your brain, as imagining the future and remembering the past require complex thinking. Science has yet to reveal another species capable of these mental gymnastics. How you daydream is controlled by the way that your brain fluctuates due to its structure. This structure is always changing because learning new things changes the connections between nerve cells. This is called neuroplasticity. When you daydream, you also make small changes to the brain.
Daydreaming Can Make You More Empathetic
Just as humans are the only known species to remember the past and imagine the future, they are also the only one to picture things from another perspective. Humans spend a considerable number of hours letting their mind wander into imagined situations. During that time one line of imagining can be dedicated to occupying someone else’s reality, picturing how they think or feel. Even when we imagine things we have not experienced we begin to understand how someone else might feel.
Daydreaming Can Improve Your Productivity
A lot of daydreaming is also dedicated to picturing the outcome of tasks. When you daydream about what you will do, it often leads you to perform better than you would have otherwise. This type of spontaneous thinking leads to goal driven thought, autobiographical planning, future planning, creative incubations, improvisation, reflective consideration of the significance of experiences and events, and thoughtful compassion. These all contribute to our efforts in real life.
There is a benefit to remaining present, as people are advised to do in mindful meditation, but that doesn’t negate the ways that daydreaming has also been proven to help us physical and emotionally. So, don’t feel like you are being lazy when your mind wanders.
Adrian Gillison is a content marketing professional that helps companies attract visitors. Previously, Adrian worked as a marketing manager for a drug addiction treatment website that helps people struggling with severe or long-term addiction problems in getting their needed treatment help as marijuana addiction help.