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Zoning out is good for the mind

Sophia Syed | Fulcrum Staff

Throughout my childhood, my concerned teachers used to snap their fingers in front of my face in an attempt to stop me from daydreaming and focus on what I was doing. Face flushed and on the verge of crying from embarrassment, I’d snap back to reality until, once again, my mind began to wander in la-la land.

I’ve always been a visual and musical learner and would tend to picture math problems with my favourite animals and objects instead of just in mathematical symbols. X would become a cute kitten and Y would represent a peace sign, which would make for an enjoyable math lesson. I always found it ironic that my teachers would scold us for not being creative enough when we weren’t even allowed to take a few minutes out of our class to have a creative daydreaming break.

Unfortunately, the art of daydreaming has long been considered a trivial pursuit for time-wasters. But by analyzing daydreaming from a different perspective, it becomes evident that mentally checking out is not just something slackers do—it’s a proactive and healthy activity.

Daydreams are more than just an unconscious escape from reality. They can relieve stress, bestow wisdom, and ignite the flame of creative works. They also allow us to imaginatively play around with certain scenarios, no matter how unrealistic they may be.

The wildest fantasies can be the driving force behind the best creative products. Beatles legends Paul McCartney and John Lennon used to base lyrics upon dreams and abstract thought. The psychedelic hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was inspired from an abstract picture based off of a daydream.

Even rule-oriented physicists have benefitted from the occasional daydream. A 16-year-old Albert Einstein frequently tried to visualize what a light beam would look like if he travelled alongside it at the speed of light. He pondered the idea for nine years, until he arrived at the realization: it’s impossible to travel at the speed of light.

No matter how many people say that one should solely focus on the here and now, studies actually demonstrate that the neurological profile of a wandering mind is much more dynamic than the consciously present state of mind. The daydreaming brain operates with both the default functioning seen in routine tasks and in a complex problem-solving manner.

Daydreaming about one’s past or future can also boost one’s creativity, problem-solving, and initiative skills for future reference. Through time-travelling daydreams we can review, rehearse, and learn to understand our lives. Our daydreams may arrive spontaneously, but we can learn to direct them—many people would probably tell you that their adult ambitions started as childhood daydreams.

So give your imagination license to go wild. You know what they say about dreams: they may just come true.