Daydreaming is our brain’s default mode

When we see people make great decisions, do you believe they spend time carefully analysing problems, calculating outcomes, devising solutions and logically coming to their final conclusions? I agree that logic and critical thinking are significant factors in problem-solving, but what about creativity? Does that play an important role in problem-solving too?

Call it what you will – daydreaming, away with the fairies, woolgathering, fantasising…etc!

With a healthy amount of daydreaming, we can come up with more creative possibilities and solutions to problems, AND we’ll feel much more relaxed in the process (or flow).

Default mode

We don’t have to try to daydream, most people can get into a daydream with ease. It’s taking any inspiration from a daydream and turning it into something productive that causes us problems.

Research says that as much as 50% of our daily cognition is spent on spontaneous cognition – in other words daydreaming and a wandering mind. And with spontaneous cognition you’re more open to problem-solving, creativity, future planning and also seeing alternative perspectives.

Daydreaming isn’t something we have to force our minds to do, researchers have also discovered that daydreaming is our brain’s ‘Default Mode’. Love that!

Examples of daydreaming could be; thinking about an email you need to reply to when reading this article, mentally planning your day during your commute, thinking about an argument you had last night when you’re in a meeting – all of these things are spontaneously stream from your mind. And a healthy 96% of adults daydream on a daily basis apparently. 

Photo by Idzard Schiphof on Unsplash

“I remember being pulled out of my school class by the ear, with the tutor shouting Stop Daydreaming Boy !”Age 9 and a half! Thanks Mr Clarke!

Daydream detention

I remember being pulled out of my school class by the ear, with the tutor shouting “Stop Daydreaming Boy!!” or even worse “Detention”. I was considered lazy, stupid, disruptive – just some of the words used in my end of term report! But schooling and conformity is another subject, for another day. Anyway, how I could have been considered ‘disruptive’, when all I was doing was looking out the window, I’ll never know.

Daydreaming pre year 2000 always led to onlookers believing you’ll never succeed, you’ll be a drifter, unlikely to hold a job down for long, get into trouble – but luckily society has moved on. Today, daydreaming contributes to a balanced and healthy lifestyle, is seen as a benefit when associated with any creative vocation and offers many positive psychological benefits that boost performance.

Daydream rocket fuel

Solutions come to the brain through what is know as nonlinear abstraction, which puts together information which was not been connected before — an activity similar to sleep. This is mainly due to alpha and gamma brainwave patterns combining with chemicals in our body, such as acetylcholine and dopamine. This cocktail of chemicals and brainwaves some how top the brain back up and resetting it to Default Mode.

After a long day, when you feel a brain-drain, then the combination of relaxation, the above mentioned cocktail and a little daydreaming will quickly get your brain back to a healthy starting point once again. Daydreaming is the brain’s rocket fuel.

Give the brain a boost

The more we daydream, the more we are able to hold onto and remember things. It helps block out the noise, information overload and conflicting thoughts. This helps us focus our mind on more important information, activities and goals. If you can utilise the power of daydreaming in a more strategic way, research shows that we become better prepared for major challenges and can handle stressful situations better.

Photo by Peter Fogden on Unsplash – I feel like makin’ dreams come true.

Strategic daydreaming

The following steps below provides tips on how you can have daydreaming time as part of your everyday routine, and once you build this into your day, you’ll have the ability to make it one of your more productive habits!

1. The Right Time

Look for times in your day when you can let your mind wander. This might happen during your commute or when you’re completing a mundane task. Daydreaming while you’re on autopilot can reduce your stress in high-pressure situations.  

2. Step Away

Most of us think the best way to come up with creative solutions is to focus on the problem relentlessly. However, research proves otherwise. When you give yourself time to let your mind wander you’ll perform significantly better. If you’re struggling to complete a project or solve a problem, walk away for a short time to reduce the pressure of coming up with the best solution.

3. Put IT Down

Picking up your smartphone is like opening the floodgates of over communication. It simply overwhelms the brain. But when you let your mind wander, you’ll be far better positioned to let you mind go wherever it wants, make connections you wouldn’t have been able to when doing other things, and get to where you want to be faster. So, put IT down.

Go and do the washing up, check each of your pens are working, lick envelopes! Do something monotonous and repetitive – that way you’ll launch your daydreaming session much faster.

4. Time Out

I know your world is full of schedules and deadlines. However, you need to set aside, officially, 15 to 30 minutes for a pure mental break. It not only will help you refresh and reset your brain to Default Mode (that’s good), but it will also encourage your brain to wander and daydream (that’s good too).

And don’t feel building about taking this time out. Research shows that employees are more productive after they’ve taken a break. And having lunch is not considered the same type of break. It needs to be a total switch off, daydreaming break. You’ll solve more problems in your head during a 30 minute daydreaming session than you would in a 2 hour working session.

5. Visualize

You’ve probably already heard all about visualization – especially if you work in a creative environment. Our brains really can’t distinguish the difference between something you actually do, and something you just visualize. This is a good thing – so when you visualise a situation, like giving an amazing presentation, asking for a promotion, running a marathon, your brain will believe you’ve already achieved these things, which boosts your confidence, reduces anxiety, relieves stress, and help you perform at your best. Give positive visualization a try – it works. 

6. Doodle

Studies have found that people who doodle when listening to someone speak retain more of what they hear. So next time you’re sitting in an endless meeting or feel tempted to play Candy Crush while on a Zoom call, grab a pen instead.

7. Pretend You’re a Different Character

Yes, you read right – be someone else!

Your thoughts will go in a different direction when you pretend to be someone else. Whenever you’re trying to come up with a new solution, try taking on a different role; try either be a fictional or real character. This forces you to think and approach problems and arrive at solutions from a completely new angle.

If you’re stuck in a creative mindset, unfocused thinking may also come to your rescue – especially when you live out an entirely different personality. People who need to solve creative problems are far more successful when they behave like an eccentric poet than a rigid librarian.

Final thought

The next time you feel overwhelmed or pressured to come up with a creative solution, take a step back. Let your mind wander. You might find that giving yourself time to daydream can help you relax, organize your thoughts and come up with a plan without even realizing it. Good luck!

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