The Lost Art of Daydreaming

It’s been over a year since I’ve written a blog. Not because I haven’t had any ideas or subject matter but somehow ideas just weren’t developing into more than fleeting threads.

On reading an article on some research done by the Georgia Institute of Technology on the importance of daydreaming I realised this might contain the answer for the absence of creative thought. It seems daydreaming is good for us and the absence directly relates to intelligence and the quality of brain function (1).  Reading a summary of this research in the Neuroscience News, explains a possible explanation as to why nothing has developed beyond a concept: my daydreaming time has been seriously limited  lately. The absence of those moments of distracted thought wandering are a variable.

For some time now I feel like I have had no drifting time, ever minute seems to be nailed down into some activity. Theres is no sitting in a cafe gazing at the world passing by, no just staring into space whilst enjoying a cup of something. Free flowing brain time has almost completely gone from my, and it seems most peoples, lives.

I wonder about the link between boredom, daydreaming,  creativity and play.   My mind wanders to thinking about the possible connection to what seems like an epidemic of people  struggling with stress and anxiety. It feels like there is never any ‘down time’ to just sit in a coffee shop and watch the crowd walk by,  look at clouds in the sky, or the wind in the trees.

That phenomenon of just letting our minds loosely wander without structure is something that we now have to pay for – via meditation sessions or mindfulness in the therapy situation.

Constant emotional dis-regulation is a cultural phenomenon where marketers have sold cool = busy.  We have developed a fear of boredom. This fear nicely supports the current cultural push to making the most of every moment. This is satisfied via our great love the mobile phone, and of course rampant consumerism. I believe this fear of boredom and our current solutions undermines our trust in ourselves and our ability to be okay with unstructured, potentially, boring time.

This most powerfully plays out in our parenting practises. It’s currently a common belief in Australia that: good parents schedule their children’s every waking minute.

What is the origin of fear of boredom? Is it just a form of social control? The research done by the Georgia team found ‘MRI scans also reveals more efficient brain systems for frequent daydreamers.’    Daydreaming positively  impacts neuroplasticity, creativity, and intelligence. ‘Interestingly, research has suggested that these same brain patterns measured during these (daydreaming) states are related to different cognitive abilities.’

We seem to be living a myth, falsely believing that more information, more activity promotes intelligence and yet it seems it might actually be the opposite – not to be misunderstood as an excuse for intellectual neglect – but over scheduling  our time might be a serious mistake, especially for our children.

This research has the potential to impact the ways in which we do many things. For example the idea that’s important for children, even quite young children to do homework. The argument being it’s important to get them into a study habit, but is it actually robbing them of opportunities to play (not computer games) and create?    Whinging boredom, whilst annoying, could be the fuel for intelligence. The need to dream up a game,  each individual taking charge of working out what will satisfy their boredom. Resisting the temptation to direct a bored other into an activity. This dreaming up is also an important step in self regulation and self definition.

With no time to drift and free range think, have we confused active compliance with intelligence?  Being dominated by a fear of boredom, hence driven by activity, directly results in an inability to be just ourselves. This fear and lack of trust in self is great fodder for chronic anxiety and stress.

(1) <>

Goodwin, C.A., Hunter, M.A., Bezdek, M.A., Lieberman, G., Elkin-Frankston, S., Romero, V.L., Witkiewitz, K., Clark, V.P., & Schumacher, E.H., (2017). Functional Connectivity Within and Between Intrinsic Brain Networks Correlates With Trait Mind Wandering.




4 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Daydreaming”

  1. Couldn’t agree more especially regarding kids getting homework at primary school. It’s ridiculous
    I believe many of us spend our daydreaming time worrying unfortunately

  2. Completely agree Claire…..on several levels, for myself I feel the best me when I have some time away at the beach, that drifting along free floating thinking as I walk the beach, with no particular destination in mind or any schedule at all for that matter. As a grandparent I know observe how children will happily entertain themselves with whatever comes to hand, and I wonder what they imagine they are creating or probably not thinking at all……..just being in the moment…………for me now simplicity and day dreaming are the bliss I seek, in an otherwise overly scheduled life.

    1. Yes Sue, my awareness of the importance of daydreaming has certainly been sharpened by being a grandmother. One of my favourite things is watching them both be mesmerised by the wind blowing in the trees.

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