Daydreaming is an easy way to lift yourself out of a funk
“People wait all week for Friday, all year for summer, all life for happiness” - Anonymous
This and other inspirational quotes littering your old highschool crush’s feed help spark a live-in-the-moment culture which labels anything spanning beyond the immediate present as unworthy of attention. And as wise as the philosophy may be, truth of the matter is sometimes the present isn’t that great.
For that, a healthy dose of daydreaming can do wonders to your overall wellbeing.
Various studies exist all over the place supporting just that. For one, Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a professor of biology and neurology at the Stanford University, once revealed this concept through an experiment with rats. By comparing the dopamine levels in their brains during an anticipation phase and then post-reward stage, he concluded the rat is happiest when it has something to look forward to, not after it has obtained it.
And we humans seem to have more in common with rats than we care do admit.
Because think about how vacations affect our happiness without even going on one. A separate study revealed, “the largest boost in happiness comes from the simple act of planning a vacation.”
Even the ones most satisfied with their vacation reported being happy afterwards for merely two weeks — four times less than the eight weeks of happiness the act of anticipation brought them.
Living in the moment doesn’t sound so Tinder-y now, does it?
Daydreaming’s bad reputation likely comes from people associating it with wasted potential, inability to focus and missing out on life’s spontaneous beauty. However, it appears daydreaming doesn’t just show up uninvited to an already awesome party, rather it livens up boring ones and helps dreamers host even better ones in the future.
Scott Barry Kaufman, an acclaimed scientific director researched daydreaming and its overlooked nuances and benefits.
“Daydreaming can be detrimental to the task at hand, but it can also be the greatest source of creativity, compassion and meaning in life,” he writes.
Furthermore, Kaufman sees one of the study’s most profound insights to be that one can be prone to both daydreaming and high levels of focus depending on the situation — and focus is just another form of being in the moment, even when the moment is not particularly fun.
Those views align with the findings of Jerome L. Singer who has committed a great deal of efforts in the field as well. “Right from the start, Singer’s research produced evidence suggesting that daydreaming, imagination, and fantasy are essential elements of a healthy, satisfying mental life,” Kaufman adds.
He also discovered daydreaming to have strong correlations with creativity, planning, problem solving, boredom relief, curiosity, attention, enhanced social skills, ongoing source of pleasure and delayed gratification.
One can see how all of those — especially the last two — could be extremely useful in today’s society governed by instant gratification, momentary impulses and short-lived whimsies.
Researchers Jonathan Smallwood of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science believes that during monotonous and trivial activities (like showering) is when mind-wandering can actually be a way to devise strategies on tackling pressing problems.
Freud was even in on this secret, describing it as an imaginary orphan boy that is given an employment opportunity. On his way to the interview, the boy imagines getting the job, then making a good impression and climbing up the ladder, and even marrying the daughter of the boss who gave him a shot, thus finding a new family and turning his entire life around.
The heartwarming example portrays daydreaming as a type of mindset many celebrities from all walks of life refer to as the power of visualization, believing it to be at the core of their success.
Daydreaming doesn’t just offer a temporary escape from harsh reality but rather maps out a pathway to a better one.
Outside of our in-the-moment circumstances, that one lazy act can be the architect of a future that willpower materializes.