#494 Science of Daydreaming

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Did you know there’s actually a science of daydreaming? It’s true. Thank you, awesome researchers.

Technically, they describe it as either daydreaming or “mind-wandering” but it’s important stuff.

Why? Because this is our ticket to activating the supercomputer-like default mode we talked about in our last +1.

But here’s the deal. When we flip the “off” switch to our activated/focused brain and enter the default mode, you might’ve noticed that we can do it in more or less Optimal ways.

Sometimes we unplug and have super-positive thoughts but, other times, when we’re not focused on something (or distracting ourselves with something!) the thoughts that bubble up can get a little freaky. (Hence, our desire to run away from them even more and overstimulate/numb ourselves in a neverending loop.)

Here’s how Manoush Zomorodi puts it in Bored and Brilliant: “There are obviously different ways to daydream or mind-wander—and not all of them are productive or positive. In his seminal book The Inner World of Daydreaming, psychologist Jerome L. Singer, who has been studying mind-wandering for more than fifty years, identifies three different styles of daydreaming:

– poor attention control
– guilty-dysphoric
– positive-constructive”

So, science says that there are THREE different ways to daydream?

Yep. Professor Jerome Singer has been studying the subject for FIFTY years! Let’s take a super-quick look at the three primary styles of daydreaming.

First, you might just have “poor attention control”—and have a difficult time focusing on *anything* (including your daydreaming!). That’s obviously not ideal. Ideally, we’d be able to focus our attention at will and then let it go at will. (Enter: Less task switching plus Meditation 101 and other attention-muscle-building exercises!)

Then we have “guilty-dysphoric.” When mind-wandering is “dysphoric,” our thoughts drift to some negative places that aren’t positive or productive. Perhaps we ruminate on things and drive ourselves a little nutty in the process. Again, sub-optimal. We want to notice this and spit our cuds as per this +1.

And, finally, we have “positive-constructive” daydreaming. THIS, of course, is where we want to spend our time.

As Manoush says: “The flip side of dysphoric daydreaming, the positive-constructive kind, is when our thoughts veer toward the imaginative. We get excited about the possibilities that our brain can conjure up seemingly out of nowhere, like magic. This mode of mind-wandering reflects our internal drive to explore ideas and feelings, make plans, and problem solve.”

<- THAT’s the healthy default mode. We integrate our sense of who we are, do what researchers call “autobiographical planning” (aka think about our future selves in relation to where we are and have been) and digest all the interpersonal and moral challenges we face all day every day.

Guess what?

ECHO! If you don’t give yourself time to just space out and do that integration you’ll get all wound up and stressed out and emotionally exhausted.

That’s Today’s +1.

The 1, 2, 3 of daydreaming.

Here’s to your positive-constructive mind-wandering!

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