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The Good Things About Daydreaming That No One Will Tell You , So I Will

The Good Things About Daydreaming That No One Will Tell You , So I Will

As a daydreamer myself, I know all about the positives. Unfortunately, the stereotypical daydreamer is often portrayed as that guy or girl sitting in a classroom, blankly staring out a window with no regard for anything his or her teacher is saying.

The reality is completely different. Daydreamers might miss a detail here or there, but those who do it often gain one thing that is frequently missing in society: imagination. I created so many stories in my head, as a kid and now as an adult, that I absolutely have to write them down sometimes. At times, the impulse becomes so unbearable that I’ll write something, anything. Not only does daydreaming compel you to create interesting fictional tales, but it’ll develop your mind, since you’re always imaging new worlds, situations, figures, and stories. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Below you’ll find a list of a handful of the benefits that daydreaming has.

1. It makes you a better thinker.

Daydreaming is closely tied to reading. Those who are illiterate, or rarely read books, are less likely to have the same thirst for knowledge and imaginative capacity that fuels daydreaming when compared to their bookworm counterparts. According to author Neil Gaiman, when reading “we exercise our imaginations.” In turn, when daydreaming, your brain wrestles with these thoughts and improves itself.

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In that same article linked above, Gaiman talks about how companies like Apple are filled with imaginative thinkers, and that one of the unifying factors tying them all together was that they read science fiction as children. Not surprising, in my opinion, as these books really make you think about our future and how we can improve society in the present. In other words, they make you unsatisfied with what we have right now and more likely to find ways to improve.

Perhaps this explains why daydreaming turns on the brain’s problem-solving functions. You aren’t thinking about random things; you’re trying to rectify an issue that you’re having. Without big dreamers, what kind of world would we live in today? The answer is: a bleak one.

2. It makes you more empathetic.

According to the experts, your brain either focuses on analysis or empathy, depending on the situation. Both have their uses, as the former will help you get work done and the latter will assist you in dealing with people.

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If you have trouble connecting with other humans, take note: studies have shown that daydreamers have more empathy than others. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially given what I talked about in regard to how reading and daydreaming are closely tied. When you are constantly thinking about different scenarios and trying to solve complex human issues in your head, you’ll necessarily feel more of a connection to those around you.

3. It alleviates boredom.

This makes complete sense when you realize that daydreaming stems in large part from the fictional stories we read, and the imagination that those stories foster. The journal Psychology Today noted way back in 1987 that most people performing relatively repetitive or otherwise uninteresting tasks reverted to daydreaming to spice things up a bit. I used to do this all of the time when practicing my shooting form for basketball. Usually, that’s an insanely boring task, even if you like the sport. I made it more fun by imagining I was shooting a game-winning shot every time. I do this in the present as well, especially when I’m doing something like washing the dishes. My made-up daydream stories are way more interesting than a soapy sponge and greasy plates, let me tell ya…

4. It makes you want more.

One study published in the journal Science back in 2010 revealed that daydreamers were more likely to be unhappy while mind-wandering. Before you connect daydreaming to unhappiness, allow me to explain. As I discussed earlier, daydreaming is in large part connected to your imagination. If you have a powerful imagination, and dream big, then it makes complete sense why daydreaming would make you a little bit unhappy, since you’re probably only doing it because you are dissatisfied, either with society or your life in some way. This, however, has its benefits. If you can recognize a problem while daydreaming, then you can tackle it when your mind is focused. Those of us dreaming about utopian societies all of the time will probably fight harder for that imagined future than those of us completely content with what we have now.

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5. It will improve your memory.

Flash cards are one way to help you remember things, but daydreaming might be even better, at least when it comes to broad concepts or ideas. The relationship between mind-wandering and memory retention has been established before, and it makes sense. Actively trying to remember something rarely works. Thinking about a book abstractly, or imagining the historical figures you’ve read about, works much better in helping you recall information. As the study notes, your brain solidifies memories in its resting state, which is why you might find that you remember things much better the morning after a session with flash cards than you did the night before.

Tying this back into the whole spiel I gave about reading, it would seem that taking information and re-purposing it for use in your own personalized daydreams is a great way to absorb lots of information. As a history major I did this all of the time, often using my imagination to think about how the figures I studied lived and dealt with the problems of their era. When the time came for us to take a midterm or final, I knew the information like the back of my hand since I had romanticized it all and daydreamed about it so much.

Want to tap into the powers of daydreaming yourself? Read something you enjoy, boost your imagination, and let your mind do the rest. Your head will be in the clouds along with the rest of us dreamers faster than you can say “Steve Jobs.”

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Featured photo credit: Thinking of You/Fabiana Zonca via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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