The lights are blinding as they shine down on me. Thousands of people are cheering in the audience, and I am greeted with the irreplaceable feeling of accomplishment for my performance. Suddenly, I am snapped back to the present, and I am finishing my math homework, feeling a little more motivated than prior to my “mini” vacation.
When people ask me to give them one word to describe myself, I simply say “dreamy”. In fact, at a very young age, I was nicknamed “Lala” by my mom because she accused me of always living in “Lala Land”. I have the gift of being able to sit in a completely empty room and entertain myself for hours on end. While “daydreaming” is typically socially frowned upon, it is actually very important in our day-to-day lives. During the next few minutes we are going to take a journey through Lala Land and examine the power of daydreaming by discussing why daydreaming is important for children and adults, how we are losing the art of daydreaming in our modern culture, and what we can do to healthily daydream more often.
What exactly is daydreaming? Daydreaming is the act of exercising the brain while still awake, allowing one’s mind to wander for purposes of entertainment or introspection. Our society has formed a negative connotation regarding the word ‘daydream’. Unfortunately, it is thought by many to be a childish act that should be outgrown just like having imaginary friends. Yes, when used excessively, daydreaming does have negative effects. Immoderate indulgence will lead a person to isolation from social activities. It can also cause a person to be unproductive and to forget about reality. But, what we must understand is that too much of anything good can be bad! In moderation, daydreaming and allowing your mind to wander is a fascinating and important thing. So, why is daydreaming important?
Why Daydreaming is important
According to the father of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud, many adults are daydreaming too little! He believes daydreaming is important for creative thinking. We are actually preparing ourselves for reality when we daydream about our hopes and plans for the future! For example, in the beginning of this year, I finally accomplished a long term goal that I had been dreaming about doing since I was a kid. I desired to write and publish a children’s picture book. As an avid reader, I constantly dreamed about holding a book in my hand that was actually written by myself. After brainstorming and rereading my book several times, I was able to officially publish it. When my book was finally printed, holding it in my hands for the first time honestly felt like deja vu because I had dreamed about that specific moment for so long! Dreaming about accomplishing your goals will actually motivate you to work towards your dream. So, if you have a goal that you are striving to accomplish, try dreaming with the end in mind. Daydreaming can make our goals that feel undoable completely doable. The next time you have a daunting task to accomplish, dream about finally accomplishing the task and the amazing sense of achievement it brings with it.
Not only does daydreaming motivate us to accomplish our goals, it also helps us in our studies! Often, we think that daydreaming affects our studies negatively because it distracts us from the task at hand. But, believe it or not, daydreaming actually has a positive effect on our studies!
https://qz.com/953511/at-last-scientific-proof-that-daydreaming-doesnt-mean-youre-a-flake/ A study from the Georgia Institute of Technology found that “Those who reported more frequent daydreaming scored higher on intellectual and creative ability and had more efficient brain systems measured in the MRI machine.”
http://www.news.gatech.edu/2017/10/24/daydreaming-good-it-means-youre-smart Eric Schumacher, the Georgia Tech associate psychology professor who co-authored the study even said, “Our findings remind me of the absent-minded professor — someone who’s brilliant, but off in his or her own world, sometimes oblivious to their own surroundings, or school children who are too intellectually advanced for their classes. While it may take five minutes for their friends to learn something new, they figure it out in a minute, then check out and start daydreaming.”
Of course, too much daydreaming will prevent you from focusing on the task at hand. Therefore, it’s important that you know when to and when not to check out! If you’re at work, you should definitely stay focused on your surroundings; but, if you decide to go to a restaurant during your lunch break, instead of pulling out your phone for entertainment, try leaving it in your bag and zoning out a little instead.
A huge priority for me, personally, is to always make sure I have time for myself to let my mind wander. Thinking back to when I was a kid, sitting in the car was always a joy to me. I was never the kid we all know who nags their parents to know how much longer. I enjoyed the long car rides because this was the time when I would relax and finally let my imagination take over. Daydreaming kids may appear like they are lazy, but they are actually hard at work! It provides them time for self-introspection, reflective compassion, and reflective consideration of the meaning of events and experiences. Taking a view from the inside, a complicated and extremely productive neurological process is taking place, according to neuroscientist Mary Helen Immordino-Yang. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/10/teach-kids-to-daydream/280615/ Now that we understand how important daydreaming is, you may be wondering, “how is this speech applicable to me? Everyone daydreams.” But, believe it or not, we are actually losing the art of daydreaming in our modern American culture.
Unfortunately today, when the average person thinks about how they spend their free time, their mind usually wanders to technology. The mind wandering I am talking about is not playing video games, zoning out in front of a television, or absentmindedly scrolling through social media. Although doing these things every now and then is not bad, constantly looking to technology for entertainment is unhealthy and doesn’t allow time for your mind to exercise. In fact, I’m sure sitting here you are all thinking about how awkward or even uncomfortable it is to sit in complete silence. We live such fast-paced lives, that we have forgotten what it feels like to slow down and simply breathe in our surroundings. Productive daydreaming is allowing yourself to escape the world without any distractions. I came across a quote by Albert Einstein that said, “He who can no longer pause to wonder or stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” There is beauty all around us, but we are so busy and distracted to see it. I challenge you, the next time you are sitting in the car and the temptation arises to turn on the radio, ignore this habit and try sitting in silence instead. While daydreaming has always been a love of mine, I didn’t begin truly cherishing it until recently because I always had that nagging voice telling me there were more important things I could be doing. But, my mind changed when Immordino-Yang proved me wrong by saying, “Inadequate opportunity for children to play and for adolescents to quietly reflect and to daydream may have negative consequences-both for social-emotional well-being and for their ability to attend well to tasks”. Wondering is how ideas are created! When we set the distractions aside, and actually take time to wonder, our creativity will come alive. In the late summer of 1666, Isaac Newton sat alone under a tree where he witnessed an apple fall and wondered why. Newton worked in complete isolation when he explored the laws of gravity and motion. Our ideas will be more fresh and creative when thinking alone! http://discovermagazine.com/2017/june/let-your-mind-wander As someone who loves working with younger kids, I have been an active babysitter since thirteen years old. I always make it a priority to keep kids off of technology, and together we come up with different options to occupy our time! We love getting creative with chalk, reading books and discussing them afterwards, and playing several different games we are able to imagine. Unfortunately, so many children and teenagers are caught up with the number of friends they have and how many likes they have on social media. It’s so important that we are teaching our youth to not constantly lean on technology for support. The amount of friends or likes they have does not define them as a person, and sometimes it’s perfectly fine to sit alone and think for a little bit!
I have three steps to help you learn how to use productive daydreaming on a day-to-day basis in your life. The first step is to allow yourself to be bored. We constantly feel as though we must be doing something every second of the day! We never allow our brain to rest, which ends up hurting the quality of our daily tasks that we are trying to accomplish because we are in dire need of a break. I’m sure we can all remember a time where we felt as though our brain was completely dead and we couldn’t come up with any new content. Instead of giving our brains a break, we continued working because the task had to be accomplished. Every now and then let your mind go empty for a short ten minutes by going on a walk around your neighborhood or just sitting in silence. You will see a better turnout in the quality of your work and creative and fresh ideas will come to you quicker!
My second step is to leave your phone in your bag or pocket! When waiting in a line to order your food at a restaurant, refuse the habit of pulling out your phone for entertainment and instead find joy in breathing in your surroundings. There are so many opportunities that we are constantly missing out on because we are so distracted!
The third and final step is to know when to check back to reality! This is so important because while daydreaming is an incredible tool, we also must know when it’s time to focus.
As I researched daydreaming, I had no idea what was in store for me.
Never had I thought that daydreaming was quite as important as it truly is. Now, it’s great to have an excuse every now and then to escape from this busy world and just dream. John Lubbock, a 19th century British banker said, “rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” So, the next time you go outside for a walk, leave the earphones at home and just be. Start your morning out slowly and take a moment to zone out before you enter your busy day. It is so important that we teach children, teens, and adults that sometimes all you need is to sit back, relax, and dream.