Why day dreaming is so important
Let’s get it out on the table – you daydream, every day! It’s something we all do! At some time in the next hour, you’ll likely find yourself detaching from what’s going on around you, allowing your attention to drift and wander. Scientists suggest that on average you spend over 40% of your waking day, in this internally focused state.
To daydream is to be human
Daydreaming is a fundamental part of being human. You might find your mind wandering when you should be focused on your University lecture! Perhaps you’re in an important meeting at work and you’re thinking about when you might next be able to go on holiday? Maybe you’re just imagining yourself already on the beach? Daydreaming might happen because you’ve decided to tune out from things (perhaps while walking the dog or taking that relaxing bath), but it can also happen at the most inconvenient of moments when you’re supposed to be paying attention!
Why do we daydream?
While there might be lots of different reasons as to why we slip into daydreaming mode (that lecture just wasn’t doing it for you, for example), daydreaming is actually a necessary part of managing our mental health and wellbeing. So, what happens when we daydream and why is it as important to us as breathing, hydrating and eating?
Neuroscientists are very interested in how our brains cope with, and process information. Just think of all of the sensory input we fed our brain every single moment of every single day. For the brain to function optimally, it needs processing time. This processing time of course happens when we are asleep (even though the brain is not), but equally it can happen when we are awake.
It's part of your processing wiring
Processing our everyday experience, thoughts and feelings, happens through a neural pathway in the brain neuroscientists call the Default Network. The Default Network fires up when you aren’t really doing very much. When you’ve zoned out, gone to sleep (or are daydreaming), the Default Network is doing its best to make sense of your experience. If you think of your brain as your own personal supercomputer – this neural pathway (along with others) is doing its work in the background to ensure that you are able to continue to function at your best, particularly when you need to be ‘on it’ and focused.
It helps us deal with overload
Trying to deal with the volume of data and insight that assaults our senses everyday can be overwhelming. Just think about the stories you hear of people burning out, feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed by what they read just on social media. Modern life puts our brain ‘through the wringer’ every single day. Daydreaming or processing sensory input, gives our brain the opportunity to work out what to assimilate, commit to memory and take seriously and what to dismiss.
Of course, there are situations when too much daydreaming can be of detriment. If you are struggling to focus, or if you can’t concentrate when you need to, then this lack of an ability to pay attention can be negatively impacting.
On the whole, daydreaming is normal, necessary and dare we say, rather fun! If you want to get to know yourself better, understanding your dreams, fears, ambitions and goals, there’s no better place to start!