Is Daydreaming Good For You?

"Get your head out of the clouds." "Why is your mind always a million miles away?" These are some of the statements that might have been thrown at you if you engaged in daydreaming as a child. In fact, letting your mind wander from the task at hand has often been associated with something negative — until science found proof that daydreaming can actually be good for you. 

Just to be clear, we're not talking about ruminating over anything that could go wrong in your future or regretting any mistakes you may have made in the past. That kind of extracurricular thinking can lead to anxiety and have negative consequences on your health. We're also not referring to maladaptive daydreaming, which is a coping mechanism some people use, per Cleveland Clinic. It's when you spend excessive amounts of your day letting your mind wander and this is harming your work, relationships, and personal life. 

The positive effects of daydreaming are linked to what psychologist Jerome Singer called positive constructive daydreaming (PCD) or what is also known as "thinking for pleasure." This is when you focus on something positive and pleasurable and open your mind to its possibilities. Apparently, it can do wonders for your focus, creativity, problem-solving skills, and health overall. Some of it has to do with what happens to your brain when you daydream. When you daydream, the "default network" in your brain is stimulated, according to WebMD. This part of your brain is also responsible for meaningful and introspective thought (per TIME). Let's take a look at some of the positives of daydreaming. 

Daydreaming could help you focus better

It might sound counterintuitive — to ask someone to let their mind wander so that they can focus better — but this is exactly what daydreaming can do for you, according to neuroscience and positive psychology professional and professor Brynn Winegard. Think about that time when your mind drifted from a tedious task you were focused on and started dreaming about a vacation you could take to Greece possibly next year. Even if it was for a few seconds, did that little escape make you feel rejuvenated? More alive? Winegard calls this "un-focusing in order to focus." 

"Daydreaming actually helps you un-focus — float off in the ether — so that when you get back to the work that you were doing, you're actually that much more focused. You actually have much more clarity in terms of your thoughts," explained the professor. This might explain why your best ideas for a sales pitch arrive when you're sitting on the toilet daydreaming. 

Positive daydreaming can also help you (indirectly) accomplish your goals, shared licensed marriage and family therapist April Mayorga (via Well+Good). "If you engage in positive daydreaming, you won't automatically achieve your goals. But we all know that with positive moods, we're able to think more clearly, concentrate, and then maybe achieve certain goals or tasks," explained Mayorga. When you go to sleep at night, there are things your dreams can tell you about your health. When you're awake and daydreaming, you're giving your mind some much-needed stimulation. 

Daydreaming can boost creativity

It might not be far-fetched to note that a creative mind is one that daydreams. There's even a 2017 study published in the journal Neuropsychologia that links letting your mind wander with smartness and creativity. Georgia Tech associate psychology professor Eric Schumacher, who co-authored the study, told the Georgia Tech News Center, "People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering ... People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad. You try to pay attention and you can't. Our data are consistent with the idea that this isn't always true. Some people have more efficient brains."

And it is not surprising to see why this might be. We run from one task to another as adults with little time for pleasurable thought or connecting with our subconscious. By allowing ourselves to daydream, we're not only giving our brain time to consolidate a lot of external information we're receiving into neural networks, but we're also giving it the space to land on eureka moments, explained Brynn Winegard. This can be helpful when you're trying to problem-solve or just come up with some good ideas. 

If you want to harness the power of daydreaming, the first step might be letting yourself do it without judgment or berating, per Winegard. You may also want to practice till you get it right, shared psychology professor Erin Westgate (via University of Florida). This might involve giving yourself positive themes to think about, especially if you end up ruminating on negative things. "The next time you're walking, instead of pulling out your phone, try it," shared Westgate.