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Daydreaming and its affects on you

Daydreaming and its affects on you
Do you spend a lot of time daydreaming? thinking about what if, fantasising about what could be, what you would like to happen or even about what has happened in the past? In this post I’ll discuss some of the reasons we do this and the good and bad side of daydreaming.

What is and why do we daydream?

Daydreaming is where our brain wonders off into its own world (known as our brains default network).  With at least 9 out of 10 of us daydreaming daily. Most people spend between 25-50% of their waking life daydreaming, with some spending even most of their day stuck in this other world (more on that below).

Daydreaming is often related to memories and experiences from the past and present, or even our subconscious knowledge. These thoughts can take place when we become less active and our mind wanders. Our brain essentially runs an internal simulated world, which can also often lead to thoughts of possibilities for the future, a kind of rehearsal or practise run to prepare us to make the proper decisions for a given situation or consider different outcomes.

Sometimes we daydream about a previous conversation, event or stimulus from our surroundings or something that is physically happening or happened to us. Replying a situation or thinking about what others think and how they may react to or have reacted to you. It may be that you are thinking of a misunderstanding. It may actually be a daydream about something that has already happened and you are trying to think of how it could have been rather than how it actually happened. You may also think about how you can change the situation by finding away to change what happened to make you understood and not have your current feelings about that situation.

These thoughts are related to being stressed and you are trying to find an alternative thought to get away from reality. And often people are more likely to daydream if they are worried, depressed, anxious, in a bad mood or had a situation that you can’t stop thinking about. Often the mind wanders off automatically and you start to think of various situations, things that need doing and this can often happen when you are working or walking, driving or even when in the middle of a conversation.

Boredom usually creates the most active time for daydreaming and usually the most creative time. Maybe this is why people who struggle with an idea and then take a break that involves doing a boring task can often come back with fresh ideas.

Other types of daydreaming may be related to fantasising. This can happen if you have an over active imagination, imagining yourself as the hero or heroin. Running scenarios, scenes or even creating stories. Daydreaming about who you would like to be, maybe a celebrity or someone you admire or creating your own fantasy world. Often people can move or act out the imaginary scenes.

All these types of daydreaming can create positive and negative thoughts and be helpful or destructive. Some daydreams can be good while most are bad in that they can lead to emotional feelings based on non reality situations.

The bad side of daydreaming

As you can imagine there is a bad side to daydreaming, where it can interfere with real memory and concentration. This type of distractive and disruptive daydreaming is called Maladaptive daydreaming.

It can interfere with your interactions with others, cause you to create fantasies and unrealistic situations to escape from reality. Some people may also find it difficult to tell the difference between reality and fantasy, creating plots and dream like stories that get merged into reality and they carry out their fantasy or they play the role of their character with very little self control. Those that suffer from this are often unable to stop daydreaming and it becomes an addiction, stopping them getting on with their lives and unable to get on with daily tasks. Their imagination gets carried away and they spend many hours per day in these fantasies, not realising that time is flying by as their mind wanders off into a waking dream.

Disruptive daydreaming can also effect relationships, cause attention issues, obsessive behaviour, anxiety and depression.

Many people who suffer from this type of daydreaming are suffering from various underlying problems/emotional issues, have something lacking in their lives, are worried or fear something or not able to cope with the real world and need to escape from the harsh realities of real life.

It can also affect their job, as daydreaming at work can stop them from getting on with the task at hand. It can lead to a lack of attention and lead to accidents or dangerous situations. Especially when carrying out dangerous work with them getting distracted, leading to a lack of awareness, making mistakes and reducing their performance.

Another dangerous time that daydreaming can affect your surroundings and yours and others safety is when you are driving. I’m sure many of us have been driving and suddenly realise you can’t remember a part of the journey or driving down a road as your mind automatically wanders off.

Even though these types of daydreaming can control our thoughts and decisions, some people actually also enjoy the fantasising aspect and become addicted to these thought processes. However as these types of daydreaming can often be extreme and become disruptive, it is advisable to seek professional help (see below).

The good side of daydreaming

It’s not all bad news. If you are able to control your daydreaming and use it constructively and not let it control and take over your life then there are some benefits that can come from it.

Let’s however start by saying that our brain uses daydreaming as a way to protect it from reality. It’s a way to cope, manage and defend yourself from the possibilities of conflict or can be a way to escape from frustration and stress.

Positive daydreaming is where you are not spending hours in another world. These are ones where you get creative, explore various possibilities, solve problems, consider possible dangers and risks, go over conversations, events, explanations, sort and organise yourself, plan ahead, practise and rehearse and learn from the past. You can also replay things in your head, changes variables and consider different outcomes, make decisions and think of a better and more ideal ways to do something for a given task or situation.

Great ideas can come from daydreaming. Often spontaneous and automatic rather than forced or from doing a planned brain storming session. Many great ideas, innovations , inventions, discoveries and problems have been solved by well known scientists and inventers through daydreaming away from their daily grind of trying to work things out – a light bulb moment!

I personally keep a note pad and pen next to me most of the time, as ideas and thoughts often come to me when I’m not actually looking for them.

How to stop excessive and destructive daydreaming

If you are in the former group and find it difficult to control, wasting hours daydreaming and stuck in another non reality world, you may need to establish the cause of your daydreaming and find others who have been or are in a similar situation and seek help. It may help to join a support group, or seek professional help and get cognitive behaviour therapy.

You could also try to daydream about positive things and friends and family and at times that you don’t need to concentrate hard on important things.

Try to think of realistic situations, rather than fantasies, concentrate on the task at hand and be aware that your mind is wandering. Turn around your daydream into constructive memories of real life situations.

To help reduce disruptive daydreaming try doing something else, get out the house, cook, do something you like, get a hobby, exercise, move around more, get on with more important things and spend less time planning things and actually get on with it. It can also help if you stop watching too much TV and sitting for hours in front of the computer, as these tend to over stimulate the brain and create more unnecessary thoughts and ideas for your over imaginative brain.

Lastly, try getting more quality sleep, as this can also be of benefit for your body and mind, reducing stress and maintaining healthy thoughts.