Vines: Daydream more, it’s good for you


Katy Vines, Columnist

Snap out of it! Pay attention! Focus!” These are the phrases that I heard intermittently throughout high school. I always had that one class in which I just couldn’t help but daydream sometimes. I thought that letting my mind wander was one of my most problematic shortcomings, and it was something that I continually worked to improve. However, this is no longer the case. Today, I am a proud proponent of occasional daydreaming. Although this amusing activity often gets a bad reputation for being a waste of time, it has some major benefits that are too often overlooked.

In this busy, bustling world, people are constantly searching for ways to relax. It just so happens that daydreaming — something people actively attempt to eliminate from their lives — is a great stress reliever. Daydreaming is said to be the mind’s way of taking a break, and it can be extremely useful for reducing anxiety and phobias by allowing mental rehearsal and the practice of deep breathing. To cope with things such as an overload of work or a fear of flying, daydreaming can help relieve this stress quickly and inexpensively. Many people don’t have the time or the money to go out of their way for stress-relieving activities, such as getting massages or doing yoga, so daydreaming throughout the day is an awesome alternative.

Additionally, daydreaming is constructive in that it helps us solve problems. A study from University of British Columbia discovered that the areas of the brain associated with complex problem-solving are more active when people daydream than when people focus on a routine task. Also, through daydreams people are able to be more creative and imaginative. This can help in the problem-solving process by allowing people to invent novel solutions. Daydreaming allows people to better manage their personal conflicts as well as to find more effective solutions to problems at work or school.

Another way that daydreaming is beneficial is that it is related to a better working memory. A study published in Psychological Science showed that wandering minds correlated with higher scores on a working memory test. This shows that daydreamers could potentially be better at remembering things. As a student, I used to be concerned that daydreaming would distract me from retaining the information that was taught in each class. In my advanced placement psychology class in particular, I was always surprised when I did better on quizzes after a period of daydreaming than I did on quizzes when I had focused on the lecture the entire time. It turns out that focusing on each detail in the lecture actually caused me to retain less material than if I had let my mind wander a little.

Although it might sound contradictory, daydreaming is not a waste of time; it is actually an activity that can help improve a person’s life. Daydreaming is an activity that assists in relaxation, problem-solving and memory retention. Occasional daydreaming is not a massive shortcoming that should be eliminated. Rather, it is a useful practice that should be embraced and promoted.

Ultimately, daydreaming is a sign of healthy mind. It keeps the brain stimulated when it is faced with boring or monotonous tasks. It also indicates that your brain is functioning according to typical development patterns, as people with Alzheimer’s disease or autism have trouble with daydreaming. When my teachers used to tell me to “snap out of it” and “pay attention” in class, I always felt embarrassed, as if I was the only one who couldn’t focus, as if something was wrong with me. In reality, my occasional daydreaming was just a reminder that my brain was healthy, stimulated and functioning normally.

Katy Vines is a Weinberg freshman. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].