Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
25 Jul

The Power of Daydreaming: Why You Should Let Your Mind Wander

There’s something about these middle weeks of summer that feel less hurried, less brimming, more casual. At a certain point of the season, everybody remembers to relax a little and soak it in. The “lazy days” mood got me thinking about daydreaming – those lost minutes (maybe hours) in which we unintentionally slip into contemplation. Sometimes we end up floating into more serious ruminations. Other times, it’s just loose and happy reverie. We all do it – whether it’s looking out the window of our morning train, laying in the backyard hammock, or sitting (standing, rather!) at our work desk. It can often happen even if we’re trying to focus. Call it a lapse in discipline, but the brain seems to have its own agenda in those moments. Is there some purpose here beyond mere escapism? What is the brain really up to, and what could daydreaming have to do with well-being?

Grant me a little musing of my own. When I was young I went to the woods to explore, tear around, and ultimately end up daydreaming on a tall rock or tree branch. Summer was the perfect time for this, of course. I was free to make the whole day. Boredom was the catalyst for many an imagined contraption or random life realization. It makes me wonder how much time the over-scheduled child has for daydreaming these days in his/her summer. We adults, too, suffer in an existence characterized by constant bombardments of input. Daydreaming, however endangered, is still at least encouraged within childhood. But we adults are supposed to be above such nonsensical bouts of inefficiency. I’d call it another blow to those things deemed “optional” that are actually essential for living a good life.

According to one recent research survey, we underappreciate the impact of introspection and daydreaming on our cognitive life and individual wellness. Open-ended reflection, Dr. Immordino-Yang of the University of Southern California notes, is critical to our development of personal reasoning and socioemotional well-being. It can help us synthesize learning and experience – to make memory and meaning of them in our lives. Sometimes, however, reflection can favor fantasy to blunt an emotional impact when we’re simply frustrated by or deeply disturbed by the circumstances of our day. Daydreaming can be as protective as it can be productive.

Studies demonstrate the neurological profile of a wandering mind as much more dynamic than simply a default setting. Sure, daydreaming can be restful, but it’s more than mental idling. Scans of study participants reveal the daydreaming brain is operating with both the default functioning seen in routine tasks and the highly intricate “executive network” accessed for complex problem-solving. Perhaps most surprising, the less conscious participants were of their mental wandering, the more “activated” the executive network was.

Research has shown we spend roughly a third to a half of our waking hours in the clouds so to speak. Some of us journey further out and more frequently than others, and it may be related to our cognitive dispositions. According to research, people who tend to daydream demonstrate more creativity in study measures. Nonetheless, the practice accesses subterranean potential in all of us. In one research study, subjects allowed to daydream outperformed other groups in a creativity focused test by more than 40%. Some mental wanderings are undoubtedly more fruitful than others, but overall it’s the process more than the product that seems to matter.

I’d argue here of course that daydreaming is an essential dimension of play. In daydreaming, we’re free to psychologically traverse through every obscure or far flung thought. We’re welcome to try on any solution or scenario that piques our interest at the moment. However, emotional or practical, daydreaming hones our emotional and cognitive dexterity. We take apart a problem and perceive it from an entirely new angle. We reflect on an overriding emotion, pose ourselves in a novel role, and suddenly process it on some unique level. Who hasn’t indulged in a little Walter Mitty style fantasy and not felt better – or at least been pleasantly amused – for it? Isn’t it how we become more fully ourselves?

More seriously, it’s also partly how our species has become more deftly human. Some of humanity’s greatest inventions, most beautiful creations, and profound thoughts have stemmed from a bald-faced lack of intention. Anyone who’s had a eureka moment while daydreaming in the shower can attest to this phenomenon. Far from some shiftless indulgence, daydreaming is part of our species’ cerebral jackpot. There was perhaps more to adaptive advantage than conscious strategizing. Daydreaming, with its unique neurological profile, opens up the chance for random connection, irrelevant association, and novel insight. At some point along the evolutionary line, these were the game changers.

When you daydream, the fact is, you’re exercising your mental muscle. You’re honing your critical and creative thinking. You’re sowing the seed of self-development. You’re owning your evolutionarily bestowed cerebral potential – and its privilege. Maybe, along the way, you’re finding a meaningful resolution to a pragmatic challenge or just turning over an existential question. Put away the techno gadgets and other “pellet” distractions. See what comes out of free, spontaneous thinking. The exercise is more Primal than you think.

Here’s a casual suggestion for the day: Embrace the leisure of summer and make some time for losing yourself in thought. Drop everything and do it now, or schedule it if you have to. Don’t go to bed tonight without endeavoring some kind of cerebral journey. Your brain – and perhaps your well-being – will be the better for it.

Enjoy the rest of your week, everyone. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by today.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Tell that one to your teacher!

    Groktimus Primal wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • I used to get in so much trouble for not paying attention in school! I knew I didn’t need to know the things they were teaching me and I learned A LOT on my own.

      I learned how to play a bunch of instruments and for a while, I was interested in being a record engineer. Every day after school, I would open up my computer and read, test, and improvise different things – learning more in my spare time than I did in all of highschool.

      Who says social studies is more important than acoustics? Why is trigonometry more important than the inner workings of a train?

      Why can’t we just let people be themselves?

      Graham wrote on July 25th, 2012
      • I agree – but our school system is made up to create little automatons that don’t think for themselves and just do what they are told. The funny AND sad thing is that we allow it. We are social beings and we have a hard time not fitting in. Good for those parents who home-school and who allow themselves to think outside the box and don’t give in to social pressures!!

        GG523 wrote on July 25th, 2012
      • Trig is really important in acoustics though. Hello Euler’s formula! Mmmm, Fourier Transforms.

        And public schooling is nothing more than indoctrination to the state. Horace Mann and the Prussian Education System he championed via state force killed the free market in average education.

        Can I get a little Murray Rothbard on education:

        Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on July 25th, 2012
        • Big thumbs up for mentioning Rothbard and indirectly also Mises, Hayek, etc. :)

          Ethan wrote on July 25th, 2012
        • WildGrok groks Mises, Rothbard, Hayek et al, more thumbs up here :-)

          WildGrok wrote on July 26th, 2012
      • I don’t use much of the information I learned in school in daily life. When shopping I make rough calculations to determine the approximate amount of tax I’ll have to pay and of course when using words I learned in school I’m using knowledge from the curriculum.
        A lot of the knowedge I use most frequently comes from friends and experience and some of it from reading things from various sources. I’m sometimes influenced by movies, music, and videogames (for anyone who’s played the PC game Gothic, that’s sort of how I live. I think playing that game made me less goody-two-shoes regimented and more open to a free-lancer type lifestyle). The rest of the thinking I put into my decisions and actions is innate / common logic / animal sense / experiential type thinking.
        For example, “I need to do (this), how am I going to accomplish it?”
        That’s where daydreaming becomes applicable. Fantastic ideas can lead to real world innovation and inspiration can be just as important as information.
        Recently I wanted to make a hammock in a tree, high enough that I have to climb to it. It’s a not a new idea. I’m sure other people have done it and I used to daydream about having an awesome tree house or bed in a tree when I was a kid. After watching Avatar I thought a homemade hammock safely slung in a tree would be an awesome place to sleep so I decided to make one.
        I collected some mattress cover sheets, found two fairly parallel branches, and then tied the sheets in between them at intervals. The result wasn’t something I think I could sleep on safely since I had to constantly make sure I was balanced properly.. it was a cool place to sit for a while and rest though.
        I would still like to make an awesome tree house or fort – a rainproof one I can actually sleep in safely, and so in the back of my mind I’m formulating ideas on how to do it while picking up potential designs from other constructions. I’ll probably settle on something basic, like wooden boards across parallel branches with a tarp and mosquito net hung above them, but who knows? Perhaps the environment will provide hints and materials for the improvement of this tentative plan. The cops made me leave my old campsite. Apparently people called in with complaints. I haven’t yet found anywhere I like enough to stay so last night I slept on sheets on the ground under a blanket during a thunderstorm and woke up soaked. Primal for sure but I’d rather use my higher brain functions to design and build something comfortable, hospitable, and impressive, even if I’m the only person who sees it. Maybe the satisfaction from viewing the result will tweak my neurochemistry enough to provide subtle persuasions to percolate my consciousness and make me do more productive things more often out of honest desire and not just necessity, that sounds like a win to me.

        Animanarchy wrote on July 26th, 2012
        • Did you learn to read, write, and spell, in school? If so, you use your schooling a lot.

          SuzU wrote on April 19th, 2015
      • I wish there was a “like” button for this. You summed it up perfectly with “Why can’t we just let people be themselves?”


        John wrote on July 30th, 2012
      • Actually, learning anything is good for your brain because it builds things called “neural pathways”. These are networks within the brain, and the more you have of them, the better you can think. The neural pathways you build while learning something complex like trigonometry, Japanese or even wood-working, will help you to achieve all kinds of other things throughout your life. In other words, trigonometry is like a full-on workout for your brain.

        Just like you need to exercise and eat right for your body to develop properly, you need to study varied, complex subjects like trigonometry and languages for your brain to develop to its full potential. You might not know it, but every day, you are currently using the neural pathways you built during school. And the more varied and complex the neural pathways you built, the better off you are now. If you explain to teenagers that learning weird stuff is a workout for their brains, and that it will make them much smarter and more successful in later life, they usually become more motivated!

        Helen wrote on March 14th, 2013
      • Some people just are more creative geniuses, and is one of the main reasons people don’t pay attention. Daydreaming is a skill of its own. Try a healthy vegan diet by choosing something new to eat from the catalogue, it will serve you well.

        Cristi wrote on May 11th, 2016
    • Just what I was thinking! Yet another thing that the public school system chastised me for that later has proven to be a vital part of childhood and indeed life.

      Rachel wrote on July 25th, 2012
      • Yes, I wish they had a daydreaming time period in school each day where they just let you do/write/muse/draw/play to encourage creativity.

        Oh yes and no grading, because labeling ideas, arts, etc. subjectively by one teacher, what is excellent, good, average, bad, blows. When you have to play that game to please your teacher, that kills creativity.

        Gift Clumsywarrior wrote on July 25th, 2012
        • My high school had an optional meditation/yoga session every morning. From experience, I can tell you that it helps clear your mind ten fold. When I didn’t meditate or do yoga before school, I didn’t feel ready to take on my school day. Definitely worth looking into if you are in the education field.

          Max Ungar wrote on July 25th, 2012
        • Grading certain things is necessary. It helps the young cope and adapt. The world is not a place where everyone wins, and success often requires work and trying again.

          Nicole wrote on July 25th, 2012
        • There should be very little (if any) tests as they are completely unrealistic, with no correlate in real life.

          Same thing with cheating – so you’re telling me that I cannot look this up on the internet? I cannot collaborate with anyone else to come to a solution? I am unable to use any of the available resources to solve this problem?

          “Cheating” is completely made up.

          Graham wrote on July 25th, 2012
        • There is always the unschooling method… learn what comes naturally to you and your interests. No grades no tests just life as a consiquense.

          kiran wrote on July 25th, 2012
        • Hi Max,
          Yes the meditation and yoga sessions are great! I definitely learn better if I dedicate some time do have a mindfulness session in the morning.

          And Graham, I definitely agrees with you. Tests are unrealistic! I usually forgot most of the stuff that I learn in classes just to take a test.

          On the other hand, I learn a lot more from ‘doing’, working on projects.

          Nicole, I can tell you now that being good at taking tests like I always was doesn’t help me in my PhD programs. In fact, I have to relearn how to learn. 😉

          Some tests are great and encourage creativity. but most of the standardized tests are designed to put students in boxes and label them with number.

          Gift clumsywarrior wrote on July 25th, 2012
        • I said nothing about tests, standardized or otherwise.

          Nicole wrote on July 26th, 2012
    • While it is true that all SYSTEMS(school & otherwise)require following the given protocol & as participants in these systems we have to submit to their dictates.It is also true that as young people we attain some level of discipline be it through study or meditation so that in DAYDREAMING mode we are capable of creating. Can one create anything from a blank slate except a blank life?

      Sylvia Golden wrote on July 26th, 2012
  2. I’ve never known about the studies or science behind it, but I’ve always used day dreaming (or mind wandering) as a problem-solving and creativity tool.
    I’ll usually start in my car on the commute home from work. I’ll say a topic (or problem, or some other block) out loud, and then just let my mind wander. Sometimes I end up way off base, but whatever. Most of the time I end up with some ideas for solutions.
    I then consciously think about these ideas again before I go to bed, and more often than not the actual solutions are clear as day when I wake up in the morning.
    Our subconsciousness is awfully powerful..

    Chris Butterworth wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • This is brilliant thinking. Whenever I am away from my computer my confidence grows and I begin to think of brilliant ideas. I wouldn’t say I am really daydreaming but it’s close. It has definitely been very effective.

      I may need to experiment with this idea. Taking what I have done a step further.

      The more time I spend on my computer the more dumb I feel. As soon as I take a break I am rejuvenated.

      You can’t day dream while your eyes are fixated on a screen!

      Primal Toad wrote on July 25th, 2012
      • +1

        homehandymum wrote on July 26th, 2012
    • Consider me a Chris Butterworth fan. About 2 years ago, my radio/cd player in my car quit working. I was going to get it fixed for the longest time, but have found that sitting there with my thoughts is the best part of my day a lot of times.

      Our minds (humankind’s minds) have come up with the best solutions to the worlds problems and will continue to do so – why not let them work?

      Graham wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • When you let your mind go free, you realize how truly creative and intuitive you are. That’s why when you go out into nature, away from the technology, you do some really great thinking and you come back feeling refreshed.

      Max Ungar wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • Hey Chris

      Love this idea – hope you don’t mind me adding this idea to a blog post I’ve just done on problem-solving…..


      kate wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • Thanks Chris, this is a great method. I have found over the years that time and pondering truly help me to make meaningful decisions. In my workplace (which was on ships), I found that problem solving involving horizon gazing, and a sleep often gave me clues for equipment woes. Later with kids, I have used time and a bit of navel gazing to contemplate consequences for teens and their occasional wayward ways (stewing in their juices a bit helps too!). We need to roll issues and thoughts around in our hands likes smooth pebble, to feel all it’s sides,

      Heather wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • Yes I know what you mean! I do that sometimes when I get stuck on my research, or a math problem. Usually the answers just pop up after I let my mind wander while biking, taking a shower, or even watching tv.

      Gift clumsywarrior wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • A trick I learned (accidentally) in college was to look over a homework assignment a week or so before it was due. Really read and understand the questions. But don’t work on any of the questions, not yet.

      I realized over the next few days ideas and answers would pop into my head. And by the time I sat down to do the homework I knew the answers, or I knew where to look for the answers in my notes from class.

      It’s really amazing.

      Greyson wrote on July 25th, 2012
      • Yes, when I was in graduate school, I finally recognized and accepted the 3 day pattern of homework: day 1 – read and attempt all problems, day 2 – repeat day one, finishing a few, day 3 – complete assignment, discussing difficult ones with classmates. Once I went with this, homework became a lot less frustrating and more predictable. Maybe if I had read them further in advance, like you mention, my results would have been better!

        Meesha wrote on July 26th, 2012
  3. I agree. Mind wandering can be a valuable tool, and sadly, is a skill that can become lost when you become an adult because you, “have no time for it, you have to stay focused.” The truth is that not only is it good for the mind, but good for the creativity and the soul.

    Rob wrote on July 25th, 2012
  4. I have made some important milestone-type decisions while camping and daydreaming with a purpose. I discovered this on a solo trip years back and decided to retire – good decision even years later. Another time it was to get a late-life degree – another good one. And, lastly, this summer, to decide whether to really retire now like all my friends have done (I’m 65) or continue working. Continue working won out – more time to save and make plans.

    Pam wrote on July 25th, 2012
  5. well I always like to say…um sorry waht was i saying my mind wandered off … oh its easy to let time slip away

    lockard wrote on July 25th, 2012
  6. I think the key to being a good daydreamer as an adult is to be a good reader when you’re a kid. I used to devour books when I was little and it gave my imagination free rein. Now I’m working in a creative field and I couldn’t get through the day without ‘zoning’ out a little.
    P.S Daydreaming is great but daydreaming while outdoors and getting some sun, even better!

    Cat wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • Outdoor daydreaming is always better! Reading is always a good idea. However, I think just meditation, or having an adventure in the wild can have profound effets on mental health.

      Max Ungar wrote on July 25th, 2012
  7. Sorry, what was that? I was in a world of my own for a moment…….

    greg wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • LOL

      Steve wrote on July 25th, 2012
  8. I agree with Chris. If you are trying to solve a problem it helps if your mind is making random connections. Even if you don’t find a solution (although you could get a couple of good ideas for unrelated projects) you will feel rested and refreshed and will be able to tackle that problem again.

    Also, it is incredibly fun to do. I do it all the time and enjoy every second of it. ^_^

    erosan wrote on July 25th, 2012
  9. I prefer systematic goal setting (Brian Tracy’s method actually) to daydreaming, because that leads to clear objectives to work towards, not just hazy wishes of what could be.

    And passionate goals are the engine that can really give life a purpose.

    Grokster wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • Systematic goal setting and daydreaming are two different things! You don’t have to choose between the two. Do both!

      Graham wrote on July 25th, 2012
      • You’re spot on, what can I tell you :)

        Grokster wrote on July 27th, 2012
  10. I wrote an article on daydreaming many years ago. I still remember a couple of comments from psychiatrists I interviewed. One said (obviously I’m paraphrasing), “Some people can’t not-think. Daydreaming is the way they rest their brains.” Then you come back to the real world refreshed.

    Another introduced me to the concept of ‘negative daydreaming.’ Easiest way to define it is by example: a man sits in a traffic jam, thinking feverishly of all the alternate routes he could have taken and avoided it. Woulda-coulda-shoulda: negative daydreaming. I’d never thought of it in that way. Makes it easier to spot somehow.

    A third pointed out that some people daydream about people. That would be me–complete stories, rarely involving me. Others dream inanimate objects–seeing themselves as clouds floating. I’ve tried that. Nothing happens.

    Wenda wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • Don’t forget about the sylphs! Beautiful creatures.
      Not that I’ve seen one cleaning up multiple chemtrails with ease or anything… muahaha

      Animanarchy wrote on July 26th, 2012
  11. Agree with Chris (and others) as well. Problem is in this “NOW” society, it’s hard to be given time anymore to solve a problem. I demand it at work, and while some get impatient, a better solution always surfaces within a couple days of letting it simmer. I can name countless examples of how it has saved us a LOT of time in the long run.

    CF wrote on July 25th, 2012
  12. Yes! I actually laid down in the grass on Monday for a few minutes. Good lord. What a relief.

    Perfect timing Mark. I think it’s time to go daydream then eat some eggs and chocolate covered bacon for lunch!

    Primal Toad wrote on July 25th, 2012
  13. I’ve just spent the last 90 minutes doing just what your photo shows! Qigong values this activity highly.

    Kelda wrote on July 25th, 2012
  14. “Perhaps imagination is only intelligence having fun.” ~ George Scialabba

    Lea wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • Thanks for that – love that quote!

      “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”~ Albert Einstein

      And not ironically – imagination leads to knowledge.

      Kudos to Mark for writing this piece – I am at the start of a “staycation” and I’m loving it. Time to just kick back with my wife without a flurry of activity – fun stuff.

      John Campbell wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • Good One..

      pat wrote on July 25th, 2012
  15. Excuse me, I have a cerebral journey to attend to with Kate Beckinsale

    Sully wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • Heh.

      DarcieG wrote on July 25th, 2012
  16. Thanks for the reminder. I’ve been longing for the lazy day, lounging in the sun with a blanket and a book in the grass. Though I still may not find the time for that, surely I can spare my focus on the here and now for a few minutes here and there. Maybe plan an after dinner walk to the shore… Yes!

    yoolieboolie wrote on July 25th, 2012
  17. Sorry. What was that ? I was drifting

    jim wrote on July 25th, 2012
  18. Hear hear! Both I and my partner ran into trouble with teachers for daydreaming as children.

    I effectively got the ability to daydream drummed out of me, and there are so many areas of my life I feel became poorer, or more stunted, as a direct result of that action. I’m consciously trying to relearn it as a skill now… a far trickier task than rebuilding regular wasted muscles!

    My partner, meanwhile, completely ignored his teacher’s concerns and carried on regardless. He’s never struggled to know what he wants or needs, makes an excellent living as an artist, and is a fabulous writer too.

    To me, that societal crippling of our natural inclination to daydream is every bit as destructive and abusive to our health and well being as the SAD. Especially now there are so many petty demands on our poor frazzled minds.

    Hurrah for daydreams, for doodles, for staring blankly into space while your mind gambols free!

    Rachel wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • That’s partially what I did in math class in high school while listening to music through headphones, leading to my grade average dropping below 50. Ironically creativity in the English classes brought it up enough for me to graduate and that has been a great aid. Various social workers and judges tend to see diplomas as credible credentials.

      Animanarchy wrote on July 26th, 2012
  19. Thank you for this article. Daydreaming creates space in thinking and you never know what can pop in! We work way too hard at our lives.

    Melanie Smithson wrote on July 25th, 2012
  20. I love that research medicine is validating and reinforcing my love for Calvinball.

    T.D. wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • +10 for reference to Calvinball, excellent!

      Clare wrote on July 25th, 2012
  21. Playing the devil’s advocate, recent studies on meditation by a Yale research group showed that long-time meditators (buddhist monks were used in the studies) have a much more silenced default mode network in their brains compared with novices. The default mode network is activated when you aren’t doing a task, it is, as the name implies, the default state of your mind when not doing anything in particular. Now, healthy individuals can shift between default mode and task-specific mode without much of a problem, but people suffering from a host of mental issues, such as depression, anxiety, ocd, adhd, etc. have over-active default mode networks, which makes sense since those disorders’ symptoms are over-thinking, ruminating, overly self-critical thoughts, daydreaming without taking actions (learned helplessness) etc. The buddhist monks are off the charts when it comes to mental health, happiness, and psychological resilience, and it is a direct result of their meditation training to silence the default mode network. So, if you are healthy mentally then yes, daydreaming is wonderful, but if you are suffering from any mental health issues, then daydreaming is the worst thing you can do, you do too much of it already! Being in the moment and getting out of your mind is THE one thing you must do to be more healthy mentally.

    haig wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • One last thought and a summary:
      Daydreaming about things other than yourself is good (einstein daydreaming about riding a beam of light leading to theory of relativity), daydreaming about yourself is bad (rumination, self-criticality, egotism).

      haig wrote on July 25th, 2012
      • I completely agree with you. Developing the mental discipline to silence the disordered thinking would be the emergency first step. Play only when you can actually play happily in your mind. An old beau said that we should have “To think” lists rather than “To dos” and I enjoyed the idea. I wonder what I’d put on the list.

        Joy Beer wrote on July 25th, 2012
      • Yes to this. :) I used to be able to count 12 distinct trains of thought all running simultaneously. They weren’t productive of course, and when I learned how to quiet my mind, and to release my deep limbic system from this strenuous activity, my whole body health improved dramatically. At first it was hard to let go, because so much of what I perceived as my identity was defined by how quick and constant my thinking was. Now, I do and think one thing at a time, practice present-moment awareness (f “practice” really makes sense… I just “am”, now), and my daydreaming happens organically, playfully, and spontaneously.

        Something that helped me immensely was to listen to Eckart Tolle’s youtube videos about the prison of the mind, and how thoughts are their own little entities, seeking to multiply and get bigger, and our minds are the fertile ground into which they plant ourselves; the trick is to choose which we’ll tend and propagate and which to let pass on through to somewhere else. I found this to be true when I attempted t create a thought, and found that I could not; I could only allow a thought, already in its thought-form, to enter, and then I could allow others like it, if I wanted to, but to create a thought from nothing is humanly impossible. We can synthesize, analyse, string-together thoughts, but we cannot create them. They exist on their own, floating around looking for a mind that will let them grow there and bring their friends. This is why “Weeding” of the mind is also important, because unhealthy thoughts choke out the good ones, and those which are most robust are the ones that have taken deep root and are aligned with the climate and conditions of the terrain. :) Meditation was pivotal for turning my chronic illness into my present journey back to well-being. I have since incorporated other qi gong practices and sacred dance as well.

        Who is it that chooses what will enter the mind? Daydream on that one if you like. :)

        Imogen wrote on July 25th, 2012
        • …”into which they plant [THEMSELVES]”…

          Imogen wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • I could not agree more!! When I startet seeing my cognitive therapist in a period of great stress and anxiety this was exactly what he said. No more daydreaming! I could not imagine a life without it, but daydreaming has a dangerous side to it. You may start out daydreaming about something nice, but 5 minutes later you are suddenly deep into your worst disaster-thoughts. Thoughts are not easy to control, and I have worked hard to learn it. I want to recommend Eckhart Tolle, and his book “The power of Now” for anyone who wants to take control over their thoughts and minds. No more daydreaming for me:)Only meditation and focusing on being here…now.

      Camilla wrote on July 25th, 2012
  22. I remember early daydreaming on the part of my daughter, when she was 3 years old. Driving home from work and daycare, she was chewing her going-home snack, looking out the window lost in thoughts. She then revealed to me her reveries: “Mama, when you die, can I have your strappy gold high heels?”

    Joy Beer wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • lol! I had one from my 3 year old the other day which was similarly out of nowhere: What happens if a racoon breaks into our car and eats the seatbelts. Do we still need to wear them?

      Happycyclegirl wrote on July 25th, 2012
      • Her beliefs about raccoons! Her opinion of seatbelts! Three year olds are great. What did you answer?

        Joy Beer wrote on July 26th, 2012
  23. I find low-level activity to be the best spark for my introspective wandering. I usually go for a walk and get some of my best thinking done. It feels like my wandering in the physical world spurs my mind to do the same. I’ve come to some of my biggest life decisions that way.

    Todd S. wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • I agree with that so much. Monday thru Friday working out inside is a necessary evil for me, but on the weekends I get outside and just let my mind drift to wherever it wants to go for a good hour or so. It’s my favorite “me time”.

      Lea wrote on July 25th, 2012
  24. I often let my mind wander when I am walking to work. I am often surprised at where my thoughts go from the mundane to the amazing. And yes, I frequently get “answers” to problems or think of new approaches to situations.

    I am so glad to have the time in my day to let my mind wander. :-)

    Happycyclegirl wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • You ever find yourself at work and realize you have no recollection of the trip there? that kind of thing happens to me all the time!

      Graham wrote on July 25th, 2012
  25. Summer is my busy season. Things slow back down in the fall, which suits me fine. It’s too darned HOT to lay outdoors and daydream. All I can think about is the sweat pouring out of me, how I need a shower AGAIN and how much longer I have to lie here. Now in the fall, with cool breezes and leaves blowing about…that’s daydreaming season! Ahhh. Can’t wait!

    Mamachibi wrote on July 25th, 2012
  26. And I’ve got to think this helps Night dreams as well.

    Jack wrote on July 25th, 2012
  27. Weighing in as a teacher here – we LOVE daydreaming, reflection and introspection. But we also know that periods of focus are required to tap all that mental latitude and creativity and develop to defined ideas and goals.

    christie wrote on July 25th, 2012
  28. Its a wonder why my teachers tell me to “QUIT DAYDREAMING!” That when I get my best Ideas! It’s like meditating by a river, or sitting on the toilet. Thats when you do your best thinking because that is when you are free to daydream. Great article Mark.

    Max Ungar wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • Our school system has proven itself to be about as bad as you can be at educating children – so take anything they say, reverse it, and you should be in good shape!

      Graham wrote on July 25th, 2012
  29. Really like this article Mark! I found myself daydreaming earlier today and came up with some ideas for our crossfit gym. I carry a notebook around with me, everyday, and write down any thoughts I get while daydreaming, meditating, or just sitting quietly. It’s really therapeutic for me and allows me to organize the chaos of my thoughts and ideas.

    Thanks for the great articles as always Mark!

    Tom Coffey wrote on July 25th, 2012
  30. Perfect timing for the article. As a manager I try to make sure that each person on my engineering staff has at least 2 hours a week for daydreaming and creative thinking. I encourage them to walk outside, go out to different areas of the shop, talk to people, or do whatever it is that re-energizes them and gets them thinking creatively. Grey cubicles are the death of creative thinking, yet every engineer is issued one.

    Jill wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • Thank goodness there are managers like you! I’ve become accustomed to cubicle daydreaming as well as before bed. I prefer the the cubicle daydreaming because I get to jot down my ideas. In fact, I’ve recently decided to go back to school to get my masters degree because of daydreaming. Daydreaming before bed can keep me up all night if I don’t consciously stop myself.

      Christina wrote on July 25th, 2012
  31. Thank you, Mark for the article. There are so many times when I get down on myself for daydreaming and criticize my brain – “WHY CAN’T YOU FOCUS?!” I already know I am too hard on myself and this just reassured me that I’m not abnormal because I often daydream. Totally believe it’s for lack of a better word healthy to keep creativity alive. :)

    Jaylen wrote on July 25th, 2012
  32. Just read an article that suggests it takes 6 hours for your brain to assimilate a problem – so you’ve got to allow yourself to daydream or sleep on the question to get the best solution.

    BTW, the article suggests that you shouldn’t sleep after a traumatic event for at least 6 hours so your brain can make sense of it before it gets laid down into your memory.

    kate wrote on July 25th, 2012
  33. If i had stopped daydreaming, I would have never started Strangekitty.

    Nionvox wrote on July 25th, 2012
  34. I can attest to every aha moment being in the shower, while laying in bed, anything that wasn’t thinking about the problem. Except in the case of P=NP, that aha moment hasn’t come yet.

    Rob wrote on July 25th, 2012
    • I’ve solved complex computer programming problems while crossing busy and dangerous streets, while putting the laundry in the washing machine, waking up in the middle of the night knowing exactly which character to change out of tens of thousands of lines.. the mind is strange thing. ;-D

      Ethan wrote on July 26th, 2012
  35. I sold my car stereo so I could get more thoughts in a day. My 2hours a day really relaxes me, and I get so many good ideas and sing so many freestly songs…. It makes my day.

    Michael wrote on July 25th, 2012
  36. I am a massage therapist: I get paid to daydream.

    Stacey Webb wrote on July 25th, 2012
  37. I believe I will continue my daydreaming by the pool today… I mean I have to do my mental health’s sake 😉

    Jena wrote on July 25th, 2012
  38. Daydreaming is so great for creative inspiration! It’s also a great stress-reliever.

    Katie wrote on July 25th, 2012
  39. What?…..where?…..who??….damn…I was daydreaming again>>>>

    Dave PAPA GROK Parsons wrote on July 25th, 2012
  40. Nicole wrote:

    “Grading certain things is necessary. It helps the young cope and adapt. The world is not a place where everyone wins, and success often requires work and trying again.”

    I think Mark’s point is that the young are very naturally inclined to cope and adapt more if they expand their minds beyond closed circuits, such as a ratings system.

    When you think of the young which ran at the heals of Grok, they had to fend for themselves from a very young age. They could not have managed that without “coping” and “adapting” being built into their biological instinct.

    So grading comes naturally, we are just going through a period of mankind’s evolution where we think success is whatever we want to *make* it conceptually, at the expense of our strongest point – biological mastery.

    Chris wrote on July 25th, 2012

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