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6 comments

Your Fantasies May Be the Key to Productivity

Posted October 22, 2008 12:00 AM by Sharkles

It's autumn in upstate New York, which means that my commute to and from work is considerably more interesting because of the changing colors of the leaves. Such natural beauty makes it hard not to daydream a bit during these routine drives. I also find myself daydreaming while I work, sit in classes, watch TV, etc. Often, I'm picked-on because my mind is somewhere else. Luckily, I stumbled across an older article from the Boston Globe which claims that daydreaming can actually improve thinking.

Daydream Believin'

A daydream is defined as a "visionary fantasy experienced while awake", and is often associated with some type of emotion. These fantasies are often dream-like trains-of-thought that take people away from their current state-of-mind and surroundings. Many times, daydreaming is thought-of as being lazy and unproductive; however, some scientists believe that daydreaming is really the "default" mode of thinking. Daydreaming, they explain, allows for creativity to make new associations and engage alternative thoughts.

Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, distinguishes between two types of daydreaming. The first type is when people don't realize that they're daydreaming until someone says something to them. The second type occurs when people catch themselves drifting in to a daydream. According to Schooler, the later of these two types is where the increased creativity lies. "Letting your mind drift-off is the easy part," the psychologist explains. "The hard part is maintaining enough awareness so that even when you start to daydream you can interrupt yourself and notice a creative insight.

What's Going On Up There?

The default network of the brain consists of the medial frontal and medial parietal regions. Frontal lobes control functions such as judgment, control, language, memory, problem solving, socialization, and spontaneity. The parietal lobes are important for processing sensory information. The human brain can most easily slip into default-mode when a person is engaged in a task that requires little attention. Despite staring into space or doodling, the brain regions are busy interacting internally – causing new connections to be made from otherwise unrelated ideas.

Malia Mason of Harvard Medical School says that ""This type of [wandering] thought can be fanciful, and it can be problematic and distracting, but usually it's quite practical; for example, most people spend the time thinking about what they need to do in the impending future." This is similar to the ideas of Eric Klinger, professor of psychology emeritus at the University of Minnesota, who claims that most daydreams are about everyday occurrences and tasks.

I believe that I generally feel better, happier, and more creative when I let myself daydream. And even if you don't agree, you can still use daydreaming as an excuse the next time your boss (or significant other, etc.) yells at you for letting your mind wander. Just tell them that you're giving into your mind's natural state.

What do you think?

  • Do you let yourself daydream?
  • Do you daydream unconsciously?
  • Does daydreaming help you feel relaxed or more creative?
  • What kinds of things do you usually daydream about? (PG-13, please!)

Editor's note: Thanks Mello for the use of these beautiful pictures!

Resources:

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/08/31/daydream_achiever/?page=2

http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/980

http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/why-does-daydreaming-get-such-bad-rap

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daydream

http://www.morris.umn.edu/academic/psychology/klinger.shtmlEth

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#1

Re: Your Fantasies May Be the Key to Productivity

10/22/2008 10:18 AM

I'm wondering are the same brain parts involved/activated when someone is meditating?

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Guru
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#2

Re: Your Fantasies May Be the Key to Productivity

10/22/2008 10:44 AM

Do you let yourself daydream?

Oh yes. All the time.

Do you daydream unconsciously?

Sometimes. Can't remember the last time I had to pull myself out.

Does daydreaming help you feel relaxed or more creative?

It definitely relaxes me, but as far as more creative, I don't know. I often daydream about not having class, but that isn't really creative or productive

What kinds of things do you usually daydream about? (PG-13, please!)

Um... I dream of being able to fly, fly away without work to follow me. Then I can't be bothered!

Does this theory of daydreaming also apply with remembered dreams? I always remember dreams, but now that they may be helpful, it would make me feel better about how bizarre they can be.

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Guru
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#3

Re: Your Fantasies May Be the Key to Productivity

10/22/2008 11:30 AM

Sometimes I catch myself and just get back to work. There are other days, though, where I have a hard time concentrating on anything. This can be particularly dangerous when I'm being given instructions on a new horse's quirks and need to know what they are before I get on and start riding!

It's good to know that it's good for my mind. I have noticed that things I need to get done or ideas for things I want to do tend to pop up while I'm daydreaming.

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#4

Re: Your Fantasies May Be the Key to Productivity

10/23/2008 12:38 AM

I have to agree about the different types of daydreaming. It is indeed a fun thing to do and really does lead to breakthroughs in problems, relief of stress, or even just enjoyable few minutes.

When you are daydreaming, you relax the "judgement" phase of idea generation long enough to actually let ideas grow into something strong enough to be properly judged. Too many people judge ideas too quickly. They really do need time to germinate and blossom in order to attain their full value.

ok.. now for the other side of the picture.

Incidentally, daydreaming is also a major symptom of sleep disturbances such as sleep apnea. People with it can be very creative because the judgement phase is nearly always off until they are wide awake. The dreams themselves are making up for the lack of REM sleep.

Another symptom is the inability to concentrate on a topic. Sometimes it is seen as something like ADD.

The net lesson is that while daydreams aren't all that bad, find out if you are snoring at night, or even stop breathing at night. If so, get it treated. Sleep apnea has been strongly linked to obesity, diabetes, and premature death.

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#5

Re: Your Fantasies May Be the Key to Productivity

10/23/2008 11:20 AM
  • Do you let yourself daydream? Let? How would I stop it - after all, it's my brain's natural state...
  • Do you daydream unconsciously? Of course, and sometimes even consciously.
  • Does daydreaming help you feel relaxed or more creative? Yes, both. I think it may be akin to a meditative state.
  • What kinds of things do you usually daydream about? (PG-13, please!) Oddly enough, most are similar to out-of-body experiences, like being a ghost in an ordinary landscape. Also perhaps odd, nothing too outrĂ©...
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#6

Re: Your Fantasies May Be the Key to Productivity

10/23/2008 3:33 PM

In one of my favorite Peanuts cartoons, Peppermint Patty is daydreaming at her desk at school. Jolted to wakefulness by the teacher she responds (as close as I remember), "No Mam, I wasn't daydreaming. I was conceptualizing."

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