Why Daydreaming Is So Good For You


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Often derided and the topic of many a teacher’s report card comment daydreaming, or mind-wandering, is generally seen as an undesirable activity, especially among school-age children from whom the education system demands unrelenting focus. “Monica likes to daydream,” notes home to my Mom would read. “I do wonder what she is thinking about.” And yet, on average, we daydream nearly 47% of our waking hours. If our brain spends nearly half of our awake time doing it, there is probably a good reason why.

The term “daydreaming” was coined by Julien Varendonck in 1921 in his book The Psychology of Day-Dreams (with a foreword by Sigmund Freud, so sort of a big deal). While Varendonck and Freud saw benefits to daydreaming, the past 20 years have yielded research that portrays daydreaming as “a cognitive control failure,” with some researchers out of Harvard recently declaring “a wandering mind is not a happy mind.” An exception to that opinion was one held by the late eminent psychologist Jerome Singer, who spent most of his professional life researching daydreaming (he preferred the term to “mind-wandering”). Singer identified three types of daydreaming, and while two can have negative impacts, one is quite beneficial.

The first is “guilty dysphoric” or fear-of-the-future daydreaming, when we either think about the past, perseverating on a negative experience (like reliving a tough phone call over and over), or we catastrophize the future (like imagining failing spectacularly at an upcoming work presentation). Then there is “poor attentional control,” where a person struggles to focus on a particular thought or task, particularly troublesome for those with attention deficits. These two kinds of daydreaming don’t have identifiable benefits. But the third type, “positive constructive daydreaming (PCD),” where we cast our mind forward and imagine future possibilities in a creative, positive way, can be quite beneficial. Helpful for planning and creativity, PCD is the bridge that links our internal observations with the forecasting required for future exploration.


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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Americaoncoffee
    Feb 24, 2023 @ 05:06:54

    The modern imagination modulated and fine tuned. That’s us.😝



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