This Bad Habit Can make you Smarter
We do it all the time.
We come upon persons who’re far away, deep in thought and oblivious of their surroundings, and we take it upon ourselves to jolt them out of their reverie, often with righteous indignation. (Why not? They’re wasting their lives dreaming up unicorns).
At school, teachers hate it. At work, bosses cannot stand it, and even though we rarely speak of it, we all believe that daydreaming is a sign of laziness, unseriousness and joblessness.
But yet again, science has proven us wrong.
Numerous researches have shown that this seemingly passive activity is in fact responsible for a massive increase in brain power. Some specific areas are worth mentioning.
Daydreaming, creativity and complex problem solving
In a 2012 study published in journal of psychological sciences, it was found out that daydreaming leads to sudden connections and profound insights—exactly the kind of stuff creativity is made of.
So many scientific breakthroughs are said to have occurred to the scientist at moments when they least expect them, when they allowed their minds to wander away from the problem.
This is because it is at such times that they attempt to relax and have a down time that the brain’s default network gets hard at work making unlikely connections between ideas, digging up past experiences and jolting up memories.
The result is insights and enlightenment, unique solutions and fresh perspectives.
What this imply is, you’re less likely to experience your aha moment when you’re fixated and focused on finding it. By giving yourself a break and allowing your mind to wander towards unrelated stuffs, your mind can very well solve any complex problem for you and give you the answers on a platter.
Daydreaming and improved performance
Research has also linked daydreaming to increased efficiency and performance. The study shows that people who took a break from a difficult task to do something easy that allows their mind to wander were able to boost their performance by around 40%.
In another research, when students were allowed to mind-wander and make personal connections to their own lives during standardized test, they performed better on the test and do better in schools (boo to all the exam invigilators who told us not to ceiling-gaze)
Apparently, the default brain network doesn’t hinder performance but improves it if the mental action doesn’t conflict with task goals.
Many other researchers have linked daydreaming to enhanced memory, empathy, reduced level of stress, and increased confidence.
But there’s a catch.
Daydreaming about unobtainable things or the troubles of your life can make you unhappier and less contented. Mounting state of your bills? Winning the lottery and surfing the world in a private jet when you’ve never bought a lottery ticket? Uh-uh, do not tread these paths.
Also daydreaming at times when you’re supposed to be attentive can put you in some fucked up situation, (I’m sure you have a lot of tales to tell already).
But you can always allow your mind to wander when you’re engaged in a repetitive task that doesn’t require focus—Exercising, walking, bathing, knitting, dish washing, or when you’re otherwise engaged with your phone.
As a bonus, anytime you find yourself in one of those boring meetings that threaten to suck the very life out of you, you can daydream yourself transforming into an alien species (by some queer twist of nature, I’m sure) that flies at night, batman style and rid the world of all its troubles. That’s my unique recommendation.
And do not forget, daydreaming might have its upsides, but so does mindfulness. The key is to find the balance between the two. Drift to lala land if you must, otherwise be present, and focus on all the tiny details that make life beautiful.
To wrap things up, here’s a quote that I really love from Dr Josh Davis that summarizes what happens in our brain during a daydream.
“When your mind wanders, it’s like PT Barman putting on a side show while the stage is being rebuilt”
Don’t ask me, I don’t know who Pt Barman is.
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