Daydreaming refers to the temporary detachment of an individual from the immediate environment. When a person is daydreaming, he or she is in a trance-like state of mind, and reality is replaced by a fantasy world where all dreams and desires come true. Basically, there are many types of daydreams and psychologists do not have a standard definition criteria. However, it is a universally accepted fact that all daydreams are dissociated from reality. According to Freudian psychology, daydreaming is a form of manifestation of suppressed thoughts and instincts in a manner similar to those of normal night dreams. In addition, psychologists agree that daydreaming is a form of wish-fulfilment that is induced by a sense of relaxation. Daydreaming strengthens the capacity of the brain and improves its physical health, but over indulgence in negative thoughts can lead to mental illnesses.
Benefits of Daydreaming. Researchers have suggested that daydreaming can be beneficial to humans. Eric Schumacher, a professor from Georgia Institute of Technology published a study in 2017 that argued that daydreaming is correlated with high brain activity (Gray). In addition, the study suggested that daydreaming enables the brain to resist distractions and to work faster. Furthermore, the researcher revealed the brain is able to drift off to a fantasy world while an individual is simultaneously doing some routine work such as taking notes or holding a conversation. Moreover, the study established that people who daydream are able to quickly process cognitive functions, which leaves him or her with enough time to dedicate to other activities. In general, daydreaming is linked with improved brain efficiency.
A scientist from Case Western Reserve University, Anthony Jack, argues that there is a differentiation between the mind and the brain. According to him, daydreaming is controlled by the brain and not the mind, and that when a person needs to perform a cognitive task, the empathetic section of the brain is turned off so that the process can be completed mechanically (Gray). He further posits that the functioning of the brain fluctuates due to its natural form, which also determines the nature of daydreams. Overall, daydreaming enables the brain to compartmentalize various functions, which enables it to switch between functions without slowing down.
Another study published in 2012 by the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain science suggested that a wandering mind is an indication of a high memory capacity. Apart from that, research have revealed that people who daydream frequently are more creative in addition to having high intellectual abilities (Gray). Moreover, some scholars have argued that the phenomenon improves the management of brain resources; when an individual is daydreaming, chances are that he or she is still concentrating on certain tasks, which forces the mind to distribute the brain resource between the cognitive functions. Hence, daydreaming is correlated to brain capacity.
Some scientists have suggested that daydreaming exercises the brain. Such experts claim that daydreaming forces the brain to work hard since one has to remember the past and connect it with the future. Neuroscientists believe that humans are the only species that are capable of daydreaming due to the complexity of the process, and that the daydreaming and thinking habits of an individual influences his or her physical brain structure. Generally, the brain is constantly changing in line with the acquisition of new information, which is manifested in the form neuroplastisity or the creation of new neural pathways (Stromberg). The connection between daydreaming and a healthy brain is evidenced by the fact that people suffering from autism and Alzheimer’s disease cannot experience the phenomenon. Therefore, it can be concluded that daydreaming boosts the general health of the brain.
Still, some scholars argue that daydreaming enhances mental health. Basically, such arguments are based on the notion that the practice is a form of low-level self-hypnosis which can lower stress. In addition, it have been proposed that daydreaming can reduce the distress caused by performing difficult tasks. For example, if an individual has an upcoming career-defining business presentation, he or she can prepare for it by daydreaming how smooth and perfect the process will be (Fleyshgakker). Hence, the experience acts as a form of mental practice for the activity in addition to alleviating any unwarranted fear. Summarily, consistent daydreaming can reduce stress emanating from daily life activities.
Disadvantages of Daydreaming. Daydreaming can be deleterious to productivity. People who engaged in tasks that require deep concentration, such as a student in class or an auditor examining some business accounts, may waste a lot of valuable time if their minds drift to unrelated issues. For instance, if a student in a mathematics class starts fantasizing about an upcoming vacation, he or she may be unable to grasp classroom content leading to poor grades. On the other hand, when an employee spends too much time imagining of winning a lottery or becoming a billionaire, he or she is likely to accomplish very little and may jeopardize his or her job (“Positive and Negative Effects of Daydreaming”). Thus, daydreaming may be deleterious to productivity.
Daydreaming can be detrimental for people with pre-existing mental conditions. For instance, people who cut themselves while they are in mental anguish may fantasize about slashing their wrists while those with suicidal thoughts may daydream about jumping from a building. In some cases, such fantasies may be too realistic and detailed such that they cease being mere imaginations and become actual plans (“Positive and Negative Effects of Daydreaming”). Apart from that, for people who harbor homicidal fantasies such as mass shootings can feel emboldened enough to carry out such crimes by regularly fantasizing about them. Hence, when daydreams involve negative thoughts, they can lead to grave self-harm or jeopardize the lives of others.
Daydreaming can lead to mental illnesses or exacerbate existing conditions. Various studies have revealed that mental states that are associated with depression, such as hopelessness, low self-esteem, rumination, and cognitive reactivity are triggered by daydreaming. Basically, daydreaming leads to a repetitive cycle of negative thoughts, which endangers the mental health of individuals at the risk of developing depression or mood disorders (“Daydreaming Can Have a Dark Side”). Apart from that, psychologists argue that when such individuals are faced with difficult situations, they may resort to daydreaming instead of working towards solutions, which can further worsen their conditions.
Finally, daydreaming can shape the way an individual views himself or herself. For instance, if a person spends too much time fantasizing about how he or she can be successful, it can boost confidence levels and motivate him or her to pursue such ambitions. On the other hand, is an individual lets his mind dwell on negative thoughts, he or she may become convinced that life cannot change or improve, leading to lack of motivation or zest for life (Lavallee). In general, if daydreaming centers on negative thoughts, it can impact negatively on the life of an individual.
Concussions, Consciousness, and Daydreaming. Concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by a strike to the head. The most common symptoms associated with concussions include loss of consciousness, amnesia, feeling “foggy”, dizziness, and mental health issues such as sadness, depression, irritability, and nervousness. When the brain is damaged by concussion related injuries, parts that are responsible for dreaming are also affected (Breus). In addition, concussions affect cognitive functions of the brain, such as reading and writing. Additionally, researchers using imaging technologies have established that the part of a healthy brain that is used for daydreaming is the same one affected by old-age mental illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In general, concussions damage parts of the brain that are responsible for both conscious and subconscious activities.
Through advanced imaging technologies, scientists have been able to identify the part of the brain that is responsible for daydreaming, and it has been effectively names as the “default network” (Whitbourne). When the brain is not performing cognitive functions, this part is activated and it starts developing its own stimulation through a process referred to as “stimulus independent thought” (Whitbourne). When the default network is damaged by a concussion, a patient cannot generate the self-stimulus; hence, he or she cannot daydream. In case of serious brain damage, the patient may be unable to perform the cognitive functions associated with consciousness. Hence, it can be concluded that concussions affects consciousness and daydreaming
The nature of the human mind enables it to wander from one issue to another and to fleet from the past to the future. In addition, the mind is able to dwell on things that never happened or will never happen at all. The wandering aspect is a critical characteristic of how the brain functions. In fact, no matter the type of job or cognitive tasks that an individual is doing, he or she is most likely to temporarily lose concentration as the mind subconsciously drifts to other unrelated matters (Roy). Hence, it can be argued that daydreaming and consciousness are in a constant competition for the brain’s resources.
Some examples of when daydreaming takes over the mind include instances when people pretend to be listening during a conversation, or when a student’s mind drifts during a lesson that requires concentration such as mathematics. Some researchers have suggested that the mind used a half of its conscious time wandering regardless of a person’s will to concentrate on productive activities (Roy). Therefore, it can be argued that daydreaming will happen involuntarily, and that it is a different and independent of consciousness.
Daydreaming is a temporarily state of dissociation from the immediate surroundings that is believed to have a positive impact on brain health, but some researchers believe that the practice leads to some negative outcomes. Studies have shown that daydreaming enhances the brain capacity since it forces it to concentrate on some imaginary events while ate the same time doing some other tasks such as holding a conversation. In addition, daydreaming acts as a form or exercise for the brain, which improves its overall physical health. Over indulgence on negative thoughts, such as feeling of helplessness and rumination, can trigger depression for at-risk individuals who are prone to mental health conditions. There is need for people to regulate the how often they daydream to avoid developing mental health conditions or ruining their careers or education due to lack of concentration. In general, daydreaming can be beneficial, but there is need avoid over indulgence.
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