I daydream. I know you think that’s bad- our whole culture has decided that this is just a lazy habit. In today’s pell-mell pace, we just can’t afford ourselves the opportunity to take things slow. That’s just wrong.
We need to daydream. We need to learn how (and to not teach our children how not to daydream). Daydreaming is critical to creativity. But, it’s not just being bored and not paying attention to our surroundings- that would be neither productive nor useful. Our mind has to be free to make new associations, new connections. Daydreaming affords us the opportunity to tune out, to afford us the ability to discern the un-real, the make-believe; in so doing, we can develop new processes and products that are real and defined.
So how do we re-learn how to day dream. Instead of trying to tune out our surroundings, we should try daydreaming without any external stimulations or kinetic activity. (Boy, am I really lucky I learned how to do this at an early age- and did not forget the process. I don’t do “quiet” or “still” well, at all.)
There are (at least) two types of daydreaming. One kind of daydreaming happens without the subject truly cognizant that she is daydreaming. The other type involves the subject knowing he is daydreaming; one has drifted off but is aware of what is in the dreams. That is when we have creative daydreams. If we were attached to a scanner, we would see our brain is engaged differently between these two types of daydreaming. (Scientists call this our “default network” or “default mode network”.)
We have found that this network is disrupted in autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease, among other brain maladies. In autism, there is less daydreaming- and much less activity in this region of the brain. In schizophrenia, the default network is hyperactive (which may explain why there is an inability to discern the difference between reality and imagination).
For many years, I commuted between Dulles Airport and Charlottesville (ok, only four times a week). That commute, which is still imbedded in my brain, afforded me the opportunity to daydream, to develop new products routinely. The trick was I knew I was daydreaming and could notice when something useful obtained.
And, we are learning still more about daydreaming. New research shows that what we daydream affects how we remember things that just happened. If we daydream about something far away (either in time or space), we don’t remember what we just did. (My children will tell you that’s why sometimes I would sometimes follow the road to their school and not to their friends when I was driving the similar route on weekends- before they “snapped” me out of my daydream. Yes, I can talk and daydream at the same time [or time-slice].)
Another benefit that we may derive from this research may be how to forget about something we just saw happen. Preliminary findings indicate we should daydream about something good that happened a long time ago- or on the other side of the world from where we are now.
Happy dreams to you…