“Get your head out of the clouds.” People attach a stigma to the world’s dreamers. They associate daydreaming with artists and “sensitive types.” Everyone is a dreamer, though. From the pragmatists of the world to the idealists, human beings need to use their imaginations. Innovators and visionaries have changed the world using only their fanciful thoughts as a foundation. What makes these daydreams so appealing? Why do people daydream at all?
Daydreaming is Planning and Inspiration
Daydreaming is more than imagining what it would be like to be a movie star or an astronaut. The mind’s tendency to wander serves a practical purpose. When they focus less on the task at hand, people use their daydreams to decide on the best course of action for certain situations. They weigh the pros and cons. They explore their options. This is effective for planning because daydreaming can access the brain’s “hidden” information. Dormant or inaccessible ideas emerge much more readily when in this state.
Consider a time-honored phenomenon. You have wrestled with a tough problem for hours. No solution has come to you. You find things to help you clear your mind. You go take a shower, go for a walk, or grab a cup of coffee. You distract yourself. Once you’ve distracted yourself, you begin to daydream. Not long after, the answer to your dilemma appears out of nowhere. Allowing your mind to wander gives it an opportunity to look at things from fresh perspectives.
Daydreaming Forms Identities
Though they may do it with varying degrees of frequency, everyone on the planet daydreams. None more so than children and teenagers. For these two groups, daydreaming serves an important psychological purpose. As they grow, children start to test out identities for themselves. Anyone with a teenager can tell you that this phase reaches an often tumultuous peak. The turmoil on the outside may look frightening but is necessary for the transition into adulthood. What takes place internally is even more complex. Kids need a safe space in which to test out different versions of themselves. Daydreaming provides them with a place to explore who they are and who they want to be.
Adults are usually less prone to flights of fancy. Their identities and personalities have been well established. When they do daydream, they tend to focus on a broader future. The trend of fewer daydreams continues throughout a person’s life. The older you get, the less time you spend thinking about the future.
Effects of Daydreaming
Your daydreaming affects more than just your personality and planning for hypotheticals. Numerous studies have shown that, depending on the content, it can affect your happiness and your memory.
If you tend to think about exotic places you’ve never been or people you don’t know, you don’t feel as happy. Pondering unobtainable relationships or experiences you’ve never had leaves you feeling more depressed. People who focus on familiar places and people describe themselves as more satisfied. You should avoid unrealistic dreams. Doing so keeps you happier in the long run.
A wandering mind affects your memory, as well. Drifting off removes your focus from any important information you need to absorb. Whether a lecture or a conversation with a loved one, your ability to recall the details suffers if you don’t pay attention. People who think about faraway situations or places tend to have poorer memories. This is in comparison to those whom elaborate on their current realities. These people tend to have better chances of remembering information in the future.
Letting the mind wander sounds like you’ve let it loose to amble aimlessly. Sure, daydreaming does not help you in every situation. It is vitally important to your brain’s development and maintenance, though. Next time you notice that your daydreams have gotten the best of you, think about the fact that your mind might know exactly where it’s going.