Far from being a waste of time, as we’re often told, daydreaming can aid creativity and problem-solving and help you realize your potential.
When your mind wanders from what you’re doing, take a moment to reflect before forcing yourself to concentrate. It may be that you were working on a difficult decision or situation, getting closer to a good solution. Or you could be imagining a scene in which you’re very relaxed and calm.
Although often considered unfocused, daydreams can help us get organized by keeping our life’s agenda at the front of our minds. They remind us of what’s coming up, help us rehearse new situations, plan the future, and scan past experiences so we can learn from them. By visualizing success, we boost our motivation and confidence. By completing a task mentally, we save time and become more efficient. By recalling past mistakes, we alter our behavior and prevent them happening again.
Daydreaming allows the mind to come up with ideas and modify them like a fantastically advanced computer. Sparked by a TV program, book or friend’s comment, we can develop detailed plans which may result in the perfect birthday gift or a more sensible journey to work. And for anyone wanting to become more creative, daydreaming is absolutely essential.
Tips for successful daydreaming:
- Don’t try too hard. Forcing yourself to come up with new ideas rarely works.
- Clear your mind by keeping a list of things to do on paper, rather than in your head.
- Let go of the need to be constantly busy, if only for a few minutes.
- See what triggers your thoughts most effectively; it may be music, abstract art, an unfamiliar environment, complete silence, or something else unique to you.
- Let your mind wander and follow it.
Walking for Creativity
Walking is rarely viewed as an end in itself. Daydreaming expert Tom Hodgkinson believes that most people who stride along city streets are not enjoying their stroll. In his recent book, How to Be Idle, Hodgkinson points out the creative benefits of simply going for a walk.
“Caught up in this sort of walking, we find it hard to abandon ourselves to the moment,” he writes. “However, with a little effort of will it is not so hard to get into a reflective walking-mindset even amid the bustle and turmoil of the working day.” Slow walking may seem like a waste of time, he says, but “to the creative spirit it is a fertile activity.” We generate ideas when walking. Beethoven claims he wrote music in his head while walking around Vienna, which he did every day without fail, regardless of the weather.
Keeping Daydream Notes
In order to benefit from daydreaming, it is necessary to pay attention to this “self-to-self” channel of communication. We can all become more receptive to ideas generated in our subconscious. But they should not always be taken at face value. Their real meaning might need unraveling, as it may be buried in an unrealistic fantasy. Writing down a quick summary of your daydreams could help you extract their recurring themes. You might conclude that you want to improve your education, or are underappreciated by friends and family and want more recognition or respect, for example. Escapist daydreams may imply that you feel frustrated or bored and need to change some aspect of your life to give you the stimulation you lack.
Sometimes daydreaming can be therapeutic in itself, changing our mood by relaxing or entertaining us. Being able to revisit a familiar place can make us feel safe and happy, and help us endure a challenging or difficult situation. And daydreaming about negative situations isn’t the same as worrying, it’s about running through events to push boundaries and see how things could be done differently.
Some people claim they never daydream at all, and do all their planning consciously and logically. But they could just be using a different definition of the word. There’s no need to be concerned that daydreaming is frivolous there are many advantages to “having your head in the clouds.”
Hodgkinson, Tom. How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto. April 2007: Harper Perennial.