Imagine sitting on the beach on balmy, breezy day with the waves gently tickling your toes. Now, drop a hot movie star into the picture and add a fruity drink, and life is…..not real. But it was kind of fun for a few minutes.
Research shows that people spend one-third to one-half of their waking time with their heads in the clouds – aka daydreaming. The human mind is very good at wandering in and out of the moment, especially when we allow it. But is daydreaming healthy?
The upside of daydreaming
Daydreaming – at the appropriate moment – can actually be beneficial in several ways. It’s even been proven to enhance creativity by exploring a range of possibilities that reality may not be able to generate. It can also help you:
- Manage conflict by reviewing a situation in your mind and imagining different (and better) responses. This can be useful in the future when you find yourself in a similar position.
- Boost productivity by giving yourself a 10-15 minute timeout to just chill and think about something less stressful. In doing so, you will often return to the project with a better outlook.
- Relax when feeling anxious or tense about something. Just taking a little time to meditate can be very soothing.
- Daydreaming can also help you control anxiety about an upcoming situation by mentally rehearsing the steps involved.
The downside of daydreaming
Allowing your mind to wander can also have its downside – especially if it happens a lot or you tune out when you really need to be paying attention. While dreams may be the foundation of great ideas, reality is where they happen.
Be careful not to get carried away in your daydreams to the point you feel they are more attractive than focusing on and participating in real life. That’s when it can become a condition known as obsessive (maladaptive) daydreaming that can consume a lot of time while spinning elaborate visions.
The bottom line is that some daydreaming is normal and even beneficial. However, it should not be used as replacement therapy for someone suffering from a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
If you feel that constant daydreaming is (1) interfering with your ability to focus and concentrate, (2) you are unable to maintain relationships, and/or (3) you have difficulty finishing tasks or reaching goals, consult with a qualified mental health professional. A therapist can help you discover why you are excessively daydreaming, and provide you with tools and resources to help you get a better handle on life.