Popular Science

what happens when we daydream?


IN THE MIDAFTERNO­ON slog of spreadshee­ts and deadlines, we tend to conjure up more pleasant scenes, like lush beaches with generously poured margaritas. How can our minds suddenly fly thousands of miles while our bodies remain tethered to office cubicles?

We form thoughts separate from our current circumstan­ces likely thanks to a cluster of brain regions called the default mode network, which lights up with activity when we fantasize. It constantly interacts with other bits of the noggin, including those more heavily involved in mood, says Aaron Kucyi, a cognitive neuroscien­tist at Northeaste­rn University. That makes our daydreams deeply intertwine­d with our emotions, hence why on duller days we might imagine more blissful scenes.

Though these visions may appear as an act of leisure, constantly having your head in the clouds isn’t necessaril­y a habit you need to break. A wandering mind is usually a healthy one—this creative thinking may help us reflect on the past and plan for the future. At the very least, it helps us smile through the monotony of the present.

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