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Permit yourself to daydream

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

“No daydreaming = no music, film, art, or creative thinking.” — Rasheed Ogunlaru

An African American woman staring off into the distance while the train she is on is passing wheat field outside the window.
Daydreaming happens in mindless situations where we have little to do, or the task is so mundane that it allows our minds to wander aimlessly.

Daydreaming in adults isn't taken seriously in our culture; heck, even kids have a hard time getting away with it. We tend to regard daydreaming as a waste of time, full of unproductive thoughts, while also an indicator that one is a hapless human being!

“Dreaming is largely shunned amongst adults, drowning as they are in harsh external and self-imposed realities.”

Unlike any other form of thought, though, daydreaming in itself is its own reward.

Daydreaming has been shown to enhance creativity

It may seem counterintuitive to think less directly about a specific challenge or problem, but studies continue to indicate that letting your mind wander may be just what you need to move forward.

A 2019 Harvard study showed that daydreaming is essential in giving our brains a chance to explore creative thoughts and ideas. The research showed that over 20% of inventive and creative ideas link back to the time your mind was daydreaming.

Daydreaming allows an activity called creative incubation to take place; this is where your brain evaluates and assesses new ideas generated while daydreaming. While not all thoughts may have "creativity" ingrained in them, this process helps you wade through and decide what does.

Regardless of where we are or what we're thinking about, daydreams are free thoughts and images unfettered from our active experience—a brain function with great benefits.

Here are some ways to promote daydreaming

But what if you've long forgotten how to daydream? How can you encourage it to restart?

The easiest way is to take a seat and stare into the middle distance; trains, buses, and quiet coffee shops are great for that. Essentially any mindless task will encourage daydreaming, such as ironing, walking along a straight, boring path, or even running on the treadmill.

This can be something other than a random act, waiting for some serendipitous window to emerge. You can easily schedule a regular period away from the busyness and noise of everyday life; 20 minutes is often enough time.

The next, and probably most important thing, is to banish any guilt you feel about "wasted time." As you can see from the above, daydreaming is a highly creative way to spend time!

Why not give it a try?

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