Is there a problem at work you’re struggling to solve? a relationship in your life that’s feeling a bit strained? a wish for the future that feels unattainable?
These things are all part of the human experience, but luckily, there’s a simple activity that can help: Daydreaming.
In this article, we’ll talk about what daydreaming is and how to daydream effectively. Letting your mind drift and wander has a range of benefits, from reduced anxiety to increased creativity. It can even help strengthen your sense of empathy and intimacy with others!
What is Daydreaming?
Daydreaming refers to the activity of letting your mind wander. When you daydream, your focus shifts away from whatever you’re doing, and you begin imagining scenarios or reliving past experiences. Sometimes, daydreams take the form of fantasies the dreamer finds pleasing.
Though daydreaming may seem like an idle activity, it’s essential for brain function, productivity, and creativity. Daydreaming uses the brain’s “default network,” which cycles between the executive and creative networks.
Experts believe that daydreaming has a range of potential benefits and functions:
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Serves as a method of self-soothing.
- Helps us solve problems more effectively.
- Enhances our overall creativity.
- Relieves us of boredom and passes time.
- Prepares you for the future and can helps achieve goals.
- Gives us a visualization of our hopes and dreams.
- Allows us to reflect on and learn from our past experiences.
- Provides us with a medium for internal dialogue.
What is Maladaptive Daydreaming?
Daydreaming is almost always a good thing, but there is an exception: maladaptive daydreaming. When a person experiences maladaptive daydreaming, they spend hours each day engaged in vivid daydreams. These daydreams interfere with their regular, everyday life.
Here are the symptoms of maladaptive daydreaming in a nutshell:
- Daydreams consisting of fantasy or story-like elements.
- Susceptibility to daydreaming when specific triggers are present.
- Acting out of daydreams in real life.
- Addiction to the act of daydreaming.
- Trouble sleeping or focusing on tasks.
Maladaptive daydreaming typically presents itself as a fantasy story consisting of characters, plotlines, and intriguing events. Please note that maladaptive daydreaming is not the same as schizophrenia; the dreamer can differentiate the dream from reality.
A maladaptive daydreamer may find “triggers” in their everyday life that initiate the beginning of a daydream. Further, the dreamer may act out their daydream in real life; this often presents itself as whispering, tics, etc.
Daydreaming is also considered “maladaptive” when the dreamer is addicted to them. These daydreams can cause difficulty sleeping or focusing, and the dreamer feels the constant need to daydream.
Some experts believe that maladaptive daydreaming is related to trauma, depression, and anxiety disorders. In this case, daydreams are a way of coping with and escaping from the stressors.
If you struggle with maladaptive daydreaming, consider speaking with a doctor, therapist, or psychologist. These professionals will be able to determine if your daydreaming is unhealthy, help you talk through issues, or prescribe medication. Other options include:
- Trying to get more sleep or higher-quality sleep each night.
- Drinking coffee or taking caffeine supplements to stay alert during the day.
- Keeping track of your maladaptive daydreaming triggers with a journal.
Can Everyone Daydream?
Yes, everyone can daydream.
As mentioned, daydreaming is what happens when our mind wanders and enters the default network. Research suggests that people spend anywhere from 30% to 50% of their waking life daydreaming.
It’s believed that daydreaming is typically healthy and beneficial, except in the case of maladaptive daydreaming. So, how can you make sure that your daydreams positively affect your life?
Tips for How to Daydream
Experts generally agree that one should aim for Positive-Constructive Daydreaming (PCD).
With PCD, the daydreamer imagines a future scenario or something they wish to happen. In doing so, they both lift their mood and envision how to achieve their goals. The key to successful PCD is having a positive vision or situation in mind.
1. Give Your Mind Permission to Wander
This is a crucial first step. You’ll enjoy daydreaming a lot more if you permit yourself to slow down. Realize that daydreaming is not a waste of time or energy but rather a fun and beneficial activity.
2. Find a Good Location
Your ideal daydreaming location depends on your own needs and preferences. Many people enjoy daydreaming while lying in bed, taking a walk, or completing a mindless task. If possible, make sure your location is calm and quiet.
3. Find a Good Time
While it’s best to let your daydreaming occur naturally, you might benefit from having a time picked out. This could be a specific time (seven o’clock every morning) or a more general time (while eating lunch). Having a loose schedule for daydreaming can help you stick with it.
4. Eliminate Distractions
Put your cell phone away. Turn the TV off. Utilize the time when kids are at school or in bed. Finish all the chores and tasks swamping your mind. Whatever you gotta do. You’ll reap the most benefits from daydreaming when you do it without distractions.
Of course, only you know what things distract you. Music may be distracting for some people and daydream-enhancing for others. Some people daydream while doing chores or playing video games, while others need total quiet to daydream.
Just make sure you’re comfortable and that nothing will pull you away from the daydream.
5. Determine Your Goal(s) for the Daydreaming Session
You may have a better experience if you know in advance why you’re daydreaming. While daydreaming for the sake of productivity is admirable, so is daydreaming just for the fun of it. Maybe you have a specific problem you hope to solve or a fantasy you want to indulge in.
6. Pick a Topic
Regardless of your reasons for daydreaming, having a topic (or several) in mind can help guide the daydream. For the best results, try to ensure your topics of choice are lighthearted, fun, or generally positive. A negative daydream topic can easily turn into a negative mood or mindset.
Perhaps you have a favorite memory you’d like to revisit. Or maybe you have a dream for the future you’d like to live out right now.
Go for it, and don’t be afraid to let your mind fill in the blanks.
7. Go Ahead and Indulge Yourself
While your mind’s filling in the blanks, you may find your daydreams becoming a bit fantastical, outlandish, or even random. If you’re enjoying the daydream, though, this is completely okay. Indulge yourself and let your mind go where it wants to.
Daydreaming about future hopes, roleplay scenarios, or things you enjoy is good for you. It can reduce stress, put you in better spirits, and increase your creativity.
8. Incorporate External Elements
Also, feel free to incorporate external elements into your daydream experience. For example, you could listen to music, light candles or incense, or snuggle beneath a blanket. Doing this can make your daydream more vivid and enjoyable while simultaneously grounding you.
9. Consider Keeping a Journal
This is optional, but some people do benefit from keeping a daydream journal. It will be especially helpful if you have a specific end goal in mind, such as solving a work-related problem. Your journal could consist of any combination of things:
- Ideas for daydreams you want to have.
- Specific goals you hope to achieve through daydreaming.
- Sketches or written descriptions of your daydreams.
- Reflections on how your daydreams make you feel.
- Things that come to mind during or after your daydreams.
Daydreaming might be one of the easiest ways to improve your mental and emotional well-being. I hope I helped you have a better understanding of how you can harness the power of daydreaming in your own life.
How often do you daydream? And how has daydreaming affected your life? Want more sleep health tips? Check out our guide to napping.
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