“Everything starts as somebody’s daydream.”
— Larry Niven
Last month I wrote about the benefits of sleep on brain function and as I went further and further into the research it seems that taking the time to daydream performs some of the same functions as a good night’s sleep. But wait there’s more!
Not only does daydreaming help move your memories from short-term to long-term recall improving learning and cognitive functions it also helps what scientists call Creative Incubation or the ability to have new insight into a problem or situation. We’ve all had those times when we’ve worked hard to solve a problem and then through the course of some mundane task like showering or raking leaves we get an epiphany about a possible solution. Well, that’s what Creative Incubation is and we can do it on purpose by giving our brains a break from the constant barrage of information that we consume through what we thought was restful (like checking Facebook).
Other studies in regard to mind-wandering suggest that we also subconsciously practice our real priorities while in a state of drifting off from tasks that make little to know use of our working memory (the memory needed to perform directed tasks). I interpret this to mean that we have an invaluable insight into where we can grow personally when we can find those discrepancies between what we believe to be our value as compared to the value that arises in our thoughts during our daydreaming. For instance, someone may feel like they’re perfectly happy in their job yet find their fantasies involve a sense of purpose or clarity that they currently cannot attain. What an incredible opportunity to redirect ourselves to ensure we’re on our most fulfilling path. All by taking the time to let our minds wander and then noticing what they’re doing on their sojourns through time and space.
In short, daydreaming help us:
- Improve our memory,
- Shorten our learning curve,
- Problem solve, especially creatively,
- Grow ourselves personally.
Here are some tips to easily incorporate daydreaming into your busy schedule (without driving off the road):
- When you find the time to check your smartphone during a break in your day, don’t. Instead, consider how that habit started and what you’re really getting out of it. Get curious about who might’ve posted what on your social media and why you think that.
- Play with children and let the games get ridiculous. Break some of the “rules” about what color the sky should be or how Peanut Jones would respond to Dr. Cotton Balls when arriving with a toothache.
- Revisit old photos and imagine what the people in them might be doing now. Whether you know the people or not look into their faces and consider how what you see there might have manifested over time.
- Take a walk and engage as many sense as you can during the walk. Experience the subtleties like the moisture in the air or changing scents as you enter new territory.
As wonderful as it is to have information at our fingertips we get to choose how we use it – or choose not to use it – to serve us. In the case of daydreaming it seems to be good practice to take some time to get playful and curious about information rather than merely consuming it.