Posts Tagged ‘Daydream’

Is Daydreaming Bad for You?

February 23, 2011

Your answer to this might be “yes” should you have heard some estimates that we use only 10% of our brains (See Healthymemory Blog Post, “How Much of Our Brain Do We Really Use”). If you have read that post  you should know that our brains our chugging away 24 hours a day, even when we are sleeping. Daydreaming has connotations of wasting time. A recent article1 puts the benefits and risks of daydreaming in perspective. Estimates are that, on average, we spend about 30% of our waking day daydreaming. Moreover, a neural network for daydreaming has been identified. It consists of three main regions: the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate cortex, and the parietal cortex. The medial prefrontal cortex helps us imagine both ourselves and the thoughts and feelings of others. The posterior cingulate cortex brings up our personal memories. The parietal cortex has connections to the hippocampus, that key memory structure that is responsible for our personal episodic memories (our personal histories). This network is key to our sense of self.

Daydreaming can be bad. Indeed uncontrolled daydreaming can become pathological and require clinical interventions. On the other hand, daydreaming can be quite beneficial. Letting our minds run freely can be enjoyable and enlightening. When you can’t solve a problem, letting your mind run freely can sometimes stumble upon a solution. Even if it doesn’t lead to a solution, it can relax and refresh your mind. Daydreaming can also foster creativity. Creative people are sometimes characterized as dreamers. It has been noted that people who regularly catch themselves daydreaming and who notice when they’re doing it, seem to be most creative. Daydreaming can also be beneficial when you are bored or are in an uncomfortable situation, as it provides a means of escape.

Daydreaming can also be harmful when you dwell on unpleasant thoughts. Although it is good to learn from negative experiences, leave it at that (See the Healthymemory Blog Post, “Buddha’s Brain”). Like most activities, daydreaming is best done in moderation. Meditation is the exact opposite of daydreaming. In most types of meditation you focus your attention on a concept or process (see the Healthymemory Blog Posts “Costly Gadgets or Software Are Not Required for Healthy Memory,” “Continuing to Be Positive After Thanksgiving,” “Intensive Meditation Training Increases the Ability to Sustain Attention,” and “The Relaxation Response.”

Just as with your body, your mind needs a healthy balance of activities.

1Glausiusz, J. (2011). Living in a Dream World. Scientific American Mind, March/April, 24-31. 

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