Two years ago, I shocked the conference audience in Germany encouraging them to not always be focusing the mind, but also to let it wander and daydream. This was during my presentation about mindfulness and therefore, leading them through a daydreaming exercise was counter-intuitive to what they were expecting!
I continue to notice that many people find being alone with their thoughts extremely challenging. The walkers and runners in parks plugged in to their headphones and missing the sounds of nature around them; the restaurant diners needing to keep their hands and attention occupied whilst eating, therefore distracted from sensory pleasures (and satiety signals) of their food and wine; high-achieving individuals who are always busy and have every minute of their week pre-booked and organised, because if they were to suddenly have some time with nothing in the calendar, then this would represent an epic failure. Plus, they would hear what is going on in their mind… and they might not like it.
Daydreaming contributes to brain-friendly peak performance and client experience demonstrates that success and mental health can be negatively impacted if it is not allowed.
Here are five benefits that you will enjoy when allowing your mind significant time to meander where it wants to:
1. ACTIVATES DEFAULT NETWORK
The Default Network of the brain comes online only when we are internally focused and at rest, rather than concentrating on a specific task. Thoughts may be about imagining the future, planning something or reflecting on a past event. Whilst brainwaves are lower than at other times, the brain still uses a similar amount of energy, implying that it is highly active during this stage.
The brain is efficient and likes to conserve energy, so this suggests that activating the Default Network is considered to be important for our survival. Neuroscientists are linking errors in the DN to a wide range of diseases including schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
2. BOOSTS FOCUS ON A TASK
Going with the flow of your mind wandering in short bursts that you control, allows you to resume a higher focus on your original activity. Think of it as a mini-break for the brain! Attempt to slog away through fatigue and boredom and the task that you are supposed to be completing will become more laborious.
3. LOWERS STRESS
Subjects in a new study* reported that daydreaming helped them to lower their stress at work and enhanced daily wellbeing. As above, it seems the ability to control the time taken to daydream and be able to snap back to attention when it naturally ends is important. Worrying and rumination will not work!
4. INCREASES AWARENESS OF EMOTIONS
Enabling the experience of your inner thoughts allows you to develop awareness of mood and feelings and then take action to regulate emotions, as required. Suppress this perception with constant stimulation and watch the areas of your life take a downwards slide – fast.
5. STIMULATES CREATIVITY
Daydreaming in a relaxed state could support solving a challenge via insight which is faster than from analysis. In addition, research suggests that people who demonstrate high levels of creativity allow cognitive distractions in the brain to become relevant and novel to their thinking: they are flexible in their thoughts and have an excitement and wonderment at the world around them – plus, confidence in their intuition.