You may recall daydreaming during class when you were younger. Perhaps you looked out the window and dreamed, but your teachers hindered it. You weren’t being defiant when your thoughts took you elsewhere. Everyone daydreams, and more often than you may think. Scientists say that we spend 30 to 50 percent of our time daydreaming.

So, what exactly is daydreaming? It can be defined as the trance you experience while still awake. Our minds tend to drift while we’re in this state. These intervals are brief detours from our current world. Contrary to popular belief or what you’ve been taught, daydreaming about pleasant things is far from ineffective. Here are some positive effects of daydreaming.

It lessens anxiety and stress.

You let your thoughts flow freely by tuning out the outside world, fostering mental exploration and relaxation. When our thoughts flow freely, we’re in the alpha wave state. While in this state, we’re calm and not thinking of anything with forced intensity. After a disagreement with a friend or a long day at work, let your mind wander to something pleasurable and completely unrelated. This tactic may help you distance yourself from problematic and troubling circumstances.

Having a tool like daydreaming in your arsenal is helpful, primarily when we deal with overly busy environments and perceived threats. It’s another device in your mental health toolkit to avoid anxiety and stress. If you feel yourself getting anxious, turning to daydreaming may help calm your anxiousness. Look away from distractions, take a deep breath, and think of something that makes you happy. Perhaps you imagine yourself at your favorite hiking spot in the woods or think about the new car you want to buy. Harvard University’s Medical School health blog states that mind wandering can help master anxiety. Like relaxing activities or meditation, daydreaming is a natural fix to alleviate anxiety and stress.

It helps with problem-solving.

Daydreams aren’t only mini-escapes. Letting our thoughts stray to roam about helps revitalize you. You’ll be able to return to the issue more refreshed. Most people can benefit from approaching their problems with a new perspective. Aside from having a unique perspective, daydreaming works better than forcing a solution. In one study that tracked different internal thought processes, researchers found that mind-wandering is essential and good for us, defining it as a cognitive process that leads to new ideas.

By constantly hammering away at something, you may overlook some information. However, freely associating can allow your mind to dart from memories to something you read to something you imagine. In other words, daydreaming can take you down the yellow brick road to insights, which may help you reach your goal. So, if a problem stumps you, try not to think harder to solve it. Instead, try daydreaming.

It uses different parts of your brain.

Children’s minds wander constantly, so it’s no secret that they daydream a lot. Still, having your “head in the clouds,” as some people say, is more than a diversionary or simple pastime. What happens in our brains as we daydream is pretty complex. As our minds wander, we’re using different parts of our brains. Both the creativity network and the problem-solving network are working simultaneously.

As we use different areas of our brains, we retrieve information that may have previously been dormant or out of reach. Therefore, idleness or boredom has a great purpose. It encourages us to daydream, which creates meaningful connections across our brains.

It helps you attain your goals.

How can wandering thoughts help you attain your goals? These stray thoughts are typically unguided, but new research indicates that our goals typically motivate them. Performers and athletes sometimes use intentional daydreaming to practice before a performance or game. This method prematurely wires their brains for success. It’s like practicing mentally instead of physically for the outcome you want. This kind of structured daydreaming or imagining has been popular in sports psychology. Fantasy-based daydreaming, like turning into a superhero, may end up frustrating or disappointing you because it’s so far-fetched, while a structured daydream can motivate you as it’s realistic.

It develops your creativity.

Research has proved that daydreaming is linked with higher levels of creativity. Persistently drilling down on a complicated problem doesn’t lead to discoveries, so it’s best to take a break and allow your mind to incubate on the issue. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Bianca L. Rodriguez states that this is why most people have eureka moments while doing routine tasks like washing dishes when we’re not thinking too hard about what we’re doing, allowing our minds to reveal and receive new information.

One study where college students had two minutes to think of as many uses as possible for everyday items, like bricks and toothpicks, proved this theory. Those who daydreamed first instead of focusing on the issue did better at developing creative ideas. They were 41 percent more creative and productive. Rodriguez called daydreaming an exercise for your mind, saying we’re rarely taught that it’s okay to daydream. She also compared it to tending to a tree in a vast forest. Daydreaming lets your mind zoom out and see the entire forest, inviting creativity and showing a different viewpoint.

Daydreaming has gotten a bad rap for many years. Still, it has numerous benefits. Hopefully, more people will embrace daydreaming and let their thoughts wander freely. If you are frustrated by a problem or situation and want to expand your creativity and imagination, try daydreaming and see what pathways open up for you.

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