Did you ever get told off for daydreaming in school? You know, those times when you were staring out the window and just got lost in some other place and time, and the teacher called your name two or three times before it got through to you and brought you harshly back into the room! As you can probably guess, it happened to me a lot!
Babies do it all the time – they stare unfocussed into space, in a world of their own, quite quiet and content. Yet we learn not to do it gradually, or at least to only do it in private, so no-one can pull us back, or ask us what we’re thinking about – often an impossible question to answer!
I am writing this on Maui, a place where it is easy to daydream, in the warmth of the sun, with a gentle breeze, and the sea’s rhythmic sound to lull you into that state. And as I have allowed myself those daydreaming times, I have come to realise just how valuable they are.
I believe daydreaming has several purposes and that it is important for our mental well-being. It is a natural way for us to take a break from the hurly burly of our everyday reality, to have a rest from our minds and their constant busyness. We stare at something – a leaf on a tree, raindrops on a window – and drift off into a quiet calm state, no longer really seeing the pattern that caught our attention in the first place. In some cultures this is called meditating!
Sometimes we come directly back into our normal state of attention from here, having had that few moments of rest. Other times we go from there to a different kind of thinking from our normal busy mind. We gently move through thoughts which are related, but not in a linear way. An example might be: leaf pattern; a tree in the garden when I was a child; my brother; family relationships; how humans behave with each other; etc., etc.
This type of relational thinking may just play itself out, and again we return to our normal thinking. And sometimes it will lead us naturally into creative thinking, where we see unusual or different relationships between apparently disparate thoughts. This is how Einstein first came up with the theory of relativity; it is the place of innovation, of development, of different and new solutions, and of art and music.
And all this is a natural process for us – our minds will just go there if we let them! So don’t miss out on something enjoyable and easy for your mind.
1. Let yourself daydream sometimes, to have a break from the busyness of life.
2. Occasionally, let it move into that flow of relational thinking and just notice how interesting that is.
3. When you have become used to allowing yourself to daydream, you may like to ‘programme’ the topic beforehand: take something which is bothering you or floating around your mind, and tell yourself that you would like to have a creative way of dealing with it, after you have daydreamed for a while. Then consciously take yourself into stage one of daydreaming, and allow yourself to stay until you naturally move to stage two – relational thinking – and then stage three – creative thinking. You’ll be surprised by how easily you find different solutions with no conscious effort on your part.
And above all, free yourself from any guilt about daydreaming – it’s such a health-giving thing to do!!