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10 Benefits to Daydreaming!

10 Benefits to Daydreaming!

The sound of my heels on the hard floor, I find myself on stage, my face hot and eyes slightly squinting from the bright golden lights. I’m bowing before a standing ovation given to me by a much bigger room than I expected, full of admirers. The applause is overwhelming, and pride in my presentation bubbles up through my core. A wave of gratitude washes over me as I realize that my cheeks hurt from the work of smiling, then, suddenly, I am snapped back to my living room where I am writing an article on my Mac and the little cue card that pops up in the right upper corner notifies me of another reminder I had set weeks ago. So I collect my thoughts and continue my work.

We are mostly aware of the proven benefits of taking vacations. We are repeatedly and painfully reminded that our obsession with keeping up with the Jones’ and impressing our bosses is taking its toll on our efficiency, creativity, performance, and even our health! If we insist on leaving a couple vacation days in the bank each year, however, could taking a periodic trip to la-la land also be beneficial?

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    Daydreaming, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a pleasant visionary usually wishful creation of the imagination,” and by that definition, it is proving to be like a mini-vacation that carries with it more than just a handful of scientifically proven benefits!

    1. You can exercise your brain (not your mind)…

    Neuroscientist Dr Muireann Irish says that daydreaming is hard work and serves some very important functions. The capability to remember the past and imagine the future is a very complex form of thinking—as far as we can tell, we are the only species with this remarkable ability. The way in which you daydream and think is actually the effect of your brain’s physical structure, which, in turn, is constantly changing in response to new information in the form of new neural pathways due to neuroplastisity!

    2. You can give different parts of your brain a break.

    There are two main systems in your brain: the decision-making analytic part and the relatable empathetic part. When you get really involved in one, there isn’t much room for the other to play. Daydreaming allows for a natural and fluid, almost cyclical movement between these two parts of your brain, turning one on and the other on and off as it imagines.

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    3. You may find yourself to be more creative.

    A lot of creative celebrities, including Woody Allen and JK Rowling, credit daydreaming with their best ideas. This is because when you daydream, your mind travels through different parts of your brain and collects bits of information that it may then be able to connect! These connections often end up being the beginnings of new and creative ideas!

    4. You can practice being more empathetic, open minded, and understanding.

    Like being able to remember the past or think into the future, your ability to imagine someone else’s perspective, as far as people know so far, is unique to humans. A person spends up to half of their waking hours daydreaming. If you could practice spending just a portion of that time to contemplate what someone else might be thinking or feeling, it could change your interactions with people and create great opportunities for improved communication and connections.

    5. You can feel more love and connection to the people closest to you.

    Speaking of closer connections, research has shown that certain kind of daydreams—namely the “approach-oriented” social kind involving loved ones with whom you have a significant relationship—results in more “happiness, love, and connection” in relation to those people. “Approach-oriented” just means that the daydream is associated with attaining something positive instead of avoiding something negative which would be “avoidance-oriented.”

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    6. You will have improved working memory.

    Working memory is your brain’s ability to store and then recall information in the face of distractions. Recent research out of the University of Wisconsin and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science shows a correlation between high levels of this particular kind of memory and daydreaming!

    7. You will likely experience improved performance/productivity.

    This correlation is probably the most proven! A Cornell study showed “improved performance” with daydreaming, and Bar-Ilan University found that “spontaneous, self-directed thoughts and associations,” how they defined daydreaming, “have a positive, simultaneous effect on task performance.”  There are even more examples that prove that the assumptions of your elementary school teachers were wrong when they thought that your little lapses in attention were detrimental.

    8. You can be healthier!

    Research has proven that daydreaming is kind of like a low-level self hypnosis. In doing so, you may find that you experience lower levels of stress, translating to a physiologically healthier you. Another way to lower stress with the use of daydreaming is to practice in advance. If you have a new experience coming up (perhaps a presentation at work) you can go through it in your mind and be better prepared for the actual event. That’s not all. Daydreaming is also linked with a healthier brain. Patients who suffer from autism and Alzheimer’s disease are unable to participate in this form of self hypnosis. Daydreaming can also help you sleep better, provided your dreams aren’t too structured and serious. Let your nightly mind wander to playful, wild places instead.

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    9. You can achieve your goals!

    Between being more creative, improving your working memory, increasing performance, and lowering stress levels, it is easy to see how you can have an easier time achieving your goals with the help of daydreams. But there is research that proves this as well! When you let yourself slip off to la-la land, your brain’s problem solving network is actually more active than when you are focused on routine tasks. So set your goals, make plans to achieve them, and let your brain help you when you run into obstacles!

    10. Most importantly, you can be happier!

    With all of the benefits of daydreaming, it’s little surprise that you can find yourself happier by letting yourself indulge in a little mental play. Another reason for this correlation is that hope and anticipation are both strongly related to joy and tend to be byproducts of mind wandering.

    Be warned that not all daydreams are created equal. To really tap into the potential benefits of your daydreams, try to free yourself from the worry or fear-based “day-mares.” We all do this, so there’s no shame. But if you catch yourself biting your nails, lost in another imagined horror plot of how your next date could go wrong, or what your boss could have meant by that statement, simply redirect your mind to more positive thoughts and let your brain take you for a joyride—creating new neural pathways along the way!

    Featured photo credit: autumn leaves boy/ Philippe Put via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2019

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Do you like making mistakes?

    I certainly don’t.

    Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

    Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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    Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

    Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

    • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
    • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
    • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
    • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

    We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

    If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

    Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

    Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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    When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

    Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

    We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

    It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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    Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

    Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

    Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

    1. Point us to something we did not know.
    2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
    3. Deepen our knowledge.
    4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
    5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
    6. Inform us more about our values.
    7. Teach us more about others.
    8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
    9. Show us when someone else has changed.
    10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
    11. Remind us of our humanity.
    12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
    13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
    14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
    15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
    16. Invite us to better choices.
    17. Can teach us how to experiment.
    18. Can reveal a new insight.
    19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
    20. Can serve as a warning.
    21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
    22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
    23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
    24. Remind us how we are like others.
    25. Make us more humble.
    26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
    27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
    28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
    29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
    30. Expose our true feelings.
    31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
    32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
    33. Point us in a more creative direction.
    34. Show us when we are not listening.
    35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
    36. Can create distance with someone else.
    37. Slow us down when we need to.
    38. Can hasten change.
    39. Reveal our blind spots.
    40. Are the invisible made visible.

    Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

    The secret to handling mistakes is to:

    • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
    • Have an experimental mindset.
    • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

    When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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    When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

    It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

    When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

    Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

    Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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    Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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