Were you one of those kids who got in trouble for gazing out the window in class? Well, go tell your fifth-grade teacher that was bullshit.
You weren’t slacking off—you were dreaming of bigger and better things that didn’t fit in the confines of your classroom. We took the time to look into this so you don’t have to. (And, you’re welcome. Turns out it’s really hard to stay focused when you’re researching daydreaming.) Here’s the science to back it up.
TL;DR: Benefits of Daydreaming:
- More working memory (capacity for mental multitasking)
- Ability to plan your future self and actually get to achieve it
- Stronger imagination
- Higher levels of creativity
- Openness to new ideas
- Lower levels of depression
Daydreaming Boosts Your Working Memory
Working memory is the part of your consciousness that’s concerned with what’s going on right now. Basically, it’s your brain’s RAM. People who daydream a lot have higher RAM. When they’re doing easy tasks that don’t require all their brainpower, they’re able to set aside the rest and use it for thinking about more important things.
A study published in Psychological Science found that people who daydream a lot are better at doing simple cognitive tasks, like remembering series and answering math questions, while daydreaming at the same time. And when your brain can multitask, you can get a lot of important things figured out even when you also need to get shit done.
Daydreaming Helps You Plan Your Future Self
Daydreaming gives you the time to figure out what you want. Researchers have found that a lot of the time spent daydreaming involves thinking about the future—and that people who daydream mostly about the future have stronger attentional control.
Psychologists who gave kids time to daydream about their academic futures and how to achieve them found that they felt more connected to the school, cared more about getting good grades, skipped class less and had plans in place to achieve their goals.
Daydreaming Boosts Creativity
You know that moment—when your mind is wandering, and suddenly, something clicks into place. You think of that word you meant, you come up with a new idea or solution to a problem, you suddenly understand something that’s been bugging you. It’s not just you.
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, did a study to figure out if this was true. They asked the participants to engage in a creative process (in this case, thinking of unusual uses for everyday objects.) Then, they interrupted them and got them to work on a variety of either demanding or undemanding tasks. The participants who got assigned to an undemanding task saw a huge boost in creativity—they were able to improve their response by 40%.
Daydreaming Makes You Happy
In 1975, Jerome L. Singer identified three kinds of daydreaming: positive constructive daydreaming (dreaming and planning), guilty-dysphoric daydreaming (guiltily imagining bad things and negative emotions) and poor attentional control (plain old not paying attention). Guess which one is actually good for you?
Positive constructive daydreaming has a ton of benefits. It makes people happier, more imaginative and open to new ideas, and less susceptible to depression. Because who doesn’t love having time to think about the awesome things they want to do, the mark they want to make on the world and how they’re going get there?
So dream big, it’s good for you.