Daydreaming for Brain Health
When it comes to creativity, clues to finding magic are all in your mind.
If you can dream, you can do it.
Tom Fitzgerald, Epcot imagineer
Daydreams are defined as a series of pleasant thoughts that distract one's attention from the present. The practice of daydreaming offers many benefits: de-stressing, refreshing, clearing out the cobwebs, inspiring new ideas, and sparking creativity, just to name a few.
We're not talking about promoting continual mental mind wandering, of course. Just encouraging the kind of mental time-out that gives one's hardworking, focused mind (you know, the burnout that comes from being too fixated on problem solving, dealing with physical stress or emotional anxiety) but a healthy time-out from all that worry to allow the kind of buzz that comes from activating all parts, and letting in new ideas and inspiration.
Knowing that daydreaming promotes mental health may convince you of its benefits, but how can you encourage the teens in your life to activate that natural superpower when they face a world of distractions?
In fact, research shows that our capacity to daydream is part of the brain's normal operating system, and is a good practice for mental functioning in today's fast-paced, ever-on world.
It's a problem for everyone. But teens, with their busy schedules, academic and social pressures, and developing brains, are especially susceptible to those stresses.
To start your teen a trip to building a better, healthier brain, here are five tips to encourage your techno-addled teen—and yourself—to drop his devices and tune out:
- Give yourself—and your teen—permission
- Close out of social media and other electronic distractions
- Listen to music and allow your mind to wander
- Close your eyes and tune in your breath (and if that doesn't work...)
- Gaze out a window, eyes in a softened gaze, and focus on nothing in particular
Famous daydreams and what their down-time inspired:
- Leonardo da Vinci (Inventions: flying machines, tanks, a modern bicycle; Science: anatomy, blood circulation, physiology)
- Mary Shelley (Novel: Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus)
- Harriet Tubman (Road to Freedom: via the Underground Railroad)
- Einstein (Physics: Theory of Special Relativity)
- Salvador Dali (Painting: The Persistence of Memory)
- John Lennon (Song: Imagine)
Obviously, daydreaming places your teen in some pretty inspiring company. Oh, and by the way, while you're giving your kids permission to indulge in daydreaming, you might want to take some of that brain medicine yourself!
For the science behind daydreaming, check out Encourage Kids to Daydream More