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Why Daydreaming is Good for You

9 February 2016

From The Washington Post:

We believe that the opposite of focus— daydreaming, goofing off, spacing out— is to be avoided. Worse yet, having problems focusing is seen as an obstacle to overcome and even as pathological. Self- help books and productivity bloggers strive to keep us on task with advice and hacks.

When we fail to come up with the results we were hoping for, we wonder whether we just aren’t working or concentrating hard enough. We’ve come to consider focus and being on as “good,” and idleness— especially if it goes on for too long— as “bad” and unproductive. We feel guilty if we spend too much time doing nothing.

But in thinking this way, we make a fundamental mistake.

Truly successful people don’t come up with great ideas through focus alone. They are successful because they make time to not concentrate and to engage in a broad array of activities like playing golf. As a consequence, they think inventively and are profoundly creative: they develop innovative solutions to problems and connect dots in brilliant ways. Dwight Eisenhower logged more hours on the golf course than any other U.S. president yet is also regarded as one of the best presidents this country has ever had.

In a time and age when everyone is over-scheduled and over-focused, creativity is more and more prized— it’s the key to your effectiveness and success, in life and in business. It can also be a never- ending source of joy and happiness.

. . . .

“By taking that fifteen- minute period for mindlessness or daydreaming, your attention has been broadened and your mind is now able to make more creative connections between ideas. This cannot happen when you stay overly focused on a problem,” explains Kaufman.

. . . .

You can also unfocus by broadening your experiential and intellectual horizons. According to Kaufman, anything that violates expectations of how the world works can boost creativity. For example, a semester spent studying abroad boosts students’ creativity. Why? New experiences that disrupt our usual way of life and show us a different perspective make us more mentally flexible or creative.

. . . .

Research on silence provides insight into what makes silence so powerful and how it helps us access our innate creativity. In 2006, Luciano Bernardi was studying the impact of music on physiology. To his surprise, he found that not only did the music affect participants’ physiology (slower music reduced heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing), but so did the moments of silence— which he had only included as a comparison measure.

In fact, Bernardi found that periods of silence inserted between tracks of music were much more relaxing than the soundtracks designed to induce relaxation or periods of silence administered without music in between. Physiologically, taking a “silence break” had the most profound relaxing and calming effect. Other studies have found that silence— despite being void of content— can help develop new brain cells.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

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Creativity

12 Comments to “Why Daydreaming is Good for You”

  1. Daydreaming is letting your hind-brain out to play, that bit of your mind that sometimes sees things from a different angle …

    For the writer (or really any type of artist) it’s letting in a little freedom of thought that your organized fore-brain never would have considered. I’ll hear/see/read something and wonder how one of my characters would ‘react to/do about’ it …

    • @ Allen F

      It’s Left Brain vs. Right Brain.

      Daydreaming is creative. Writers need to indulge in a lot of Right Brain activity to be successful.

  2. The best focus I’ve found for a stuck spot in a story is cleaning the bathroom. Daydreaming while doing a menial task allows your subconscious to form a solution rather than your conscious mind force something into being.

    Of course, it may simply be a matter of writing is far more preferable to scrubbing the toilet.

    YMMV

  3. My problem is my subconscious produces about one scene’s worth per nap. Means a lot of naps. http://hollowlands.com/2016/02/2621/

  4. I’m renaming my required daily rest periods as ‘Official Daydreaming and Creative Time.’

  5. Where was this when I was in 5th grade?

  6. I’ve seen the term expressed as both “horrovacui” and “horror vacui,” but it means fear of the void and is applied in different ways in art, physics, etc.

    In terms of the everyday world, I’ve seen it taken to mean that those addicted to their connected devices don’t know what to do with themselves when faced with a lack of distraction. Just sitting and thinking is horrifying.

    I can kill a half-hour or more watching the world go by or just plain daydreaming without any problem. That’s where a lot of good notions come from: standing on an L platform, coming up with a story idea, and only using the device for entering it into Evernote before I forget it. (The playwright Louis Catron, in a book that’s useful for writers of all sorts, put forth the theory that if you don’t write your random ideas down, you’re telling your subconscious that those ideas aren’t worthwhile and thus are discouraging it from coming up with any in the future. I don’t know if that’s true for me or not, but I don’t take the chance.)

    I honestly believe that people who crave constant distraction are letting their creative muscles get flabby—and may not realize they ever had them at all.

    “You don’t get anywhere in this world by dreaming!” my mom frequently told me as a kid. (To be fair, it was usually after she caught me leaning on the rake and staring up into the clouds instead of cleaning up the yard.)

    Don’t think I didn’t remind her of that after I finished my first book—or that I don’t every now and then.

    (Yeah, I can be as petty as the next guy.)

  7. I’m glad this is finally coming to light, because my daydreaming, dreams, and meditation practices are the reasons I come up with story ideas. It was through meditation that I came up with the name of my friend’s indie game company, too.

    Daydreamers might also be responsible for keeping the creative notebook industry afloat. You always need one on hand in case of brilliant dreams!

  8. It’s called “informed inattention”. You think about something intensely for a while, then you don’t think about it by doing something else, then solutions to the thing appear in your head like majic. At least it feels that way.

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