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TechLife Australia - - WELCOME - [ SHARMISHTA SARKAR ] [ ZONE OUT ]

EVER CATCH YOUR­SELF drift­ing slowly but surely into a dif­fer­ent world while some­one’s hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with you? Or even when do­ing dishes, or while at work? Not to worry, we’ve all been there and done that. But have you ever won­dered why we have this ten­dency to drift off into a day­dream, or what a day­dream ac­tu­ally is?

Wikipedia de­fines day­dream­ing as “a short-term de­tach­ment from one’s im­me­di­ate sur­round­ings, dur­ing which a per­son’s con­tact with re­al­ity is blurred and par­tially sub­sti­tuted by a vi­sion­ary fan­tasy, es­pe­cially one of happy, pleas­ant thoughts, hopes or am­bi­tions, imagined as com­ing to pass, and ex­pe­ri­enced while awake.” De­spite the “happy thoughts” though, day­dream­ing gen­er­ally has a bad rap, be­ing as­so­ci­ated with lazi­ness and “a bad use of men­tal power,” says Dr Muire­ann Ir­ish, who stud­ies the neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy of day­dream­ing at Neu­ro­science Re­search Aus­tralia. Ev­ery­one does it, how­ever, with ex­perts sug­gest­ing about half our wak­ing lives is spent day­dream­ing. That in­di­cates an evo­lu­tion­ary ad­van­tage lies be­hind the act.


In a world that ap­pre­ci­ates the go-getters, day­dream­ing is frowned upon. But what few know is that hav­ing your head in the clouds can ac­tu­ally be good for you. There’s a few ben­e­fits that have even been specif­i­cally iden­ti­fied by sci­en­tific stud­ies.

It bol­sters brain power: Mind wan­der­ing has been found to give the brain’s mem­ory a truly ter­rific work­out. Sci­en­tists have learned that peo­ple who per­form sim­ple tasks (like wash­ing the dishes) while day­dream­ing are able to re­tain more in­for­ma­tion dur­ing a mem­o­ri­sa­tion test. And the more you’re able to jug­gle day­dream­ing with these kinds of sim­ple tasks, the bet­ter your abil­ity to zone out and yet still re­mem­ber de­tails or fo­cus on a more com­plex project. This in­crease in re­ten­tion power can help pro­vide a boost in gen­eral in­tel­li­gence too. So the more you day­dream while do­ing some­thing, the sharper your mind will be.

It boosts cre­ativ­ity: Many renowned su­per-in­tel­li­gent and amaz­ingly creative peo­ple like Albert Ein­stein and the Bronte sis­ters had their best ‘a-ha’ moments when day­dream­ing. Re­search has found that men­tally break­ing away af­ter a com­plex creative task has been com­pleted can, sub­se­quently, boost cre­ativ­ity by up to 40% when start­ing the next project.

It al­le­vi­ates stress: This isn’t backed by sci­ence, yet, but be­cause it is es­sen­tially a mind-calm­ing tech­nique, day­dream­ing can lower blood pres­sure and heart rate, re­duc­ing stress-re­lated symp­toms.


De­spite the ob­vi­ous ad­van­tages of day­dream­ing, it’s best to err on the side of cau­tion, be­cause even though by def­i­ni­tion day­dream­ing is about happy thoughts, it has been re­ported that some peo­ple are less happy when their mind has wan­dered. Other stud­ies have flagged that peo­ple are wont to drift off when they’ve got the blues, so to speak, and this could lead to feel­ings of de­pres­sion.

That said, the hu­man mind is quite pli­able, and peo­ple can be trained to think hap­pier thoughts — a study con­ducted in the 1980s and pub­lished in the jour­nal Be­hav­iour

Re­search and Ther­apy found that if peo­ple spent a fixed time (say about half an hour) wor­ry­ing about what­ever they wanted to worry about, they ended up spend­ing less time wor­ry­ing spon­ta­neously.

So there you have it: the next time you catch your­self or some­one else star­ing off into the dis­tance with a silly smile on the face, re­mem­ber that it’s all in the name of a brain work­out.

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