4 Real Benefits of Daydreaming

If while in a meeting you find yourself staring out the window fantasizing about your upcoming vacation, or thinking about how glorious your post-work yoga class will be, you may be considered a bit of a daydreamer. For the most part, daydreaming has a bad wrap—teachers labeled it as "not paying attention" or a lack of mental discipline. Well, do away with the negative stigmas concerning the wandering mind. Here are four benefits of daydreaming.

1. Enhances everyday life. Let's face it—life can get a little boring. Your commute to work, for example, can be tedious especially if there's no one else on the road. Mentally escaping for a bit allows us to remove ourselves from an unpleasant situation and provides an opportunity for deep thought.

2. A time for relaxation. A large portion of the average American's week is spent at work. If we're not working, we're paying bills, taking our kids to soccer practice, or doing housework. Very little of our waking hours are spent relaxing. Daydreaming provides us with a mental break during which we can release tension—almost like meditation.

3. Improves creativity. According to a study conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara, individuals who break from work to daydream are more prone to creative insight than those who do not. This makes sense on a practical level. Our best ideas rarely come when we're immersed in something we're interested in. However, throw us in a lecture with a professor whose voice is akin to Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, our mind wanders and we're open to creative suggestion.

4. Managing relationships. Sports psychologists use visualization exercises to help provide athletes with awareness of different circumstances that may arise during a game and with the positive imagery of the best possible outcome. For example, a baseball player may rehearse an at-bat in his mind before approaching the plate. Daydreaming can not only help us in sports but also provides us with a risk-free avenue to try out various management techniques when it comes to our relationships. If a friend betrayed your trust, you may run through a few different methods on how to confront her.

Research on how and why our minds love to wander is still being conducted; however, what does exist finds that daydreaming does more good than harm. So the next time a friend says you have your head in the clouds, you have good reason to thank her for the compliment.




For Whom the Mind Wanders, and When: An Experience-Sampling Study of Working Memory and Executive Control in Daily Life
Psychological Science July 2007 vol. 18 no. 7 614-621

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