Daydreaming: it’s more beneficial than you think

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Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Apsara Senaratne

It’s first period. You’re trapped in the most horrendously dull class of the day, and the teacher’s droning on, but you’re too busy daydreaming to mind. Sound familiar?

Daydreaming. Everyone does it, whether they are stuck in a dull class or an hour-long meeting, daydreaming is just as natural as breathing. After all, our minds are in dreamland a whopping 46.9 percent of the time, according to a Harvard research study.

Though such an excessive quantity of time devoted to daydreaming may seem fruitless and even detrimental to humans, a recent study published in the Creativity Research Journal demonstrated that engaging in such fantastical thinking is actually beneficial to human health and creativity. According to the study, daydreaming is associated with greater creativity and above-average problem-solving skills.

Despite the availability of a plethora of evidence establishing daydreaming as a stress-relieving and productivity-boosting activity, daydreaming has long been regarded as a form of laziness and carelessness. This is primarily due to what acclaimed novelist Jon Methven calls “widespread misuse” in his article, “How to Daydream.”

The way in which we daydream is incorrect, Methven explains; daydreaming at the wrong place or the wrong time, such as in public transportation or in queues, can often result in bodily harm, and daydreaming about the wrong thing may result in depression or a restless mind.

An intervention study by Psychology Today asked participants to engage in what is known as “structured daydreaming.” Participants were asked to be realistic in the daydreams which they produced rather than engaging in a fantasy about winning the lottery, engaging in unrealistically heroic acts, or being a renowned actor, they were to “imagine themselves pursuing a real-life goal, complete with experiencing the frustration of dealing with obstacles that might stand in the way,” according to Psychology Today.

Methven advises against this form of daydreaming, however. Daydreaming should not be scheduled, he argues, but rather be allowed to occur naturally. Though it may be beneficial to engage in realistic daydreaming, fantasy-based daydreaming provides the most satisfaction, as its primary purpose is to allow individuals to de-stress and provide them with an escape from reality.

Additionally, though it is healthy to engage in unattainable fantasies, it is unwise to imagine scenarios which are realistic but relatively unattainable, such as winning the lottery, becoming president, or marrying a celebrity. It is also unwise to imagine scenarios in which a nuclear missile strikes the White House, or in which the Earth falls out of orbit and crashes into the Sun.

Rather than ruminating about your troubles, or the troubles of the world, daydream about things that are ludicrous and thought-provoking enough to make you smile.

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