When we're children, we're often told to stop daydreaming.
But it turns out that all those daydreams may actually be good for our cognitive health, enabling us to function at higher levels and be more creative.
A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences supports the positive powers of daydreaming:
Daydreaming Frees Space in the Mind
Daydreaming helps individuals who are trying to accomplish many tasks simultaneously and within a time constraint. While it may sound counter intuitive, mind wandering frees space in the mind to create solutions and organize tasks productively. Taking a "bird's-eye view" can open doors and provide solutions.
Daydreaming Encourages Cross-Brain Development
During daydreaming, it's thought that our right and left hemispheres start communicating and sharing information. This cross-pollination enables us to be more innovative and to use information in new ways. For instance, a geometric theorem could suddenly seem important for the development of a graphic logo.
Daydreaming Gives the Brain a Break
Your brain needs a break when there are many tasks to be accomplished. It's the same as taking a physical "breather" by walking for a short amount of time during a long run. The walk allows the body to recharge while still propelling the body in a forward motion. A similar parallel could be drawn between daydreaming and thinking.
How can we use this information in our day-to-day lives, whether we're sitting at our desks or jumping into some spring cleaning? Consider these ideas:
Next time you're charged with finishing a number of tasks, allow your mind to wander freely as you decide which to tackle first. Give yourself the freedom to freely associate but don't allow yourself to daydream so long that you lose sight of your daily goals.
Think about how you can use information you already know to solve current problems. You may find that a book you read in your junior year at college comes in handy years later.
Accept your daydreams and try not to constantly push them away. Sometimes, they can help you through an issue, or at least give you a break from the challenges that have you stumped.
Where and when do you daydream? Do you daydream at work? Has it helped or hurt you on the job and in real-world situations? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to share this article to start a daydream discussion.
Images by Matthew Wiebe, Jake Melara and S Zolkin