According to a recent study done by Harvard psychologists, average humans let their minds wander 47% of the time they are awake. That’s just under half of all the moments we spend awake, and no that’s not a typo. In fact, unless you’re currently “making love” (and for the sake of everyone involved, I really hope that’s not the case) your mind is wandering right now, no matter what task you may be working on.
This may seem like a massive failure in our design as humans. After all, we’re constantly bombarded with words like efficiency, productivity, and passion. How can we truly embody any of these things when our minds apparently don’t properly focus on the task at hand? I want to suggest that reconciling a daydreaming mind with a purpose-driven, happy, and successful life is not impossible, in fact I recommend making a practice out of allowing your mind to wander.
First of all, this is not 1920. During World War I, candidates who identified with the statement “I daydream frequently” would have been disregarded as potentially neurotic. Today, we understand a lot more about the workings of the mind. We know that daydreaming is natural to all of us and we aren’t productivity robots.
I think there are two benefits that daydreaming brings to our daily lives. First, it breeds the confidence to follow your thoughts. Engaging your moments of whimsy instead of batting them down and keeping them under the rug makes you more confident and aware of yourself. You can even begin to recognize patterns and learn something about yourself that you did not set out to learn.
In addition to this, is the fact that recent studies have shown that brain activity and problem solving are both given a boost by daydreaming. You’ve probably experienced this in some way. You’re hard at work on a problem and it feels like it’s kicking your butt. You get up to take a break because you just can’t take the mental beating anymore. You go outside to throw the ball with your kid, or you watch a few minutes of a game on TV. Then, all of a sudden, there it is. A way around the problem you had not thought of before.
When you switch the type of task that your brain is working on, you also switch the way your brain makes connections. This is an extremely useful way to solve all kinds of problems. But in the case of daydreaming, allowing yourself the freedom to daydream the way your mind naturally wants to will enable you to make more agile creative decisions, and more often.