Daydreaming at work can be good for you - and here's why

We spoke to psychologist Giulia Poerio about the benefits of daydreaming – hey, pay attention.

HAVE YOU EVER found yourself daydreaming in a meeting, doing the grocery shop or even while reading this article? (If so – concentrate, this is important.)

shutterstock_232570309 Shutterstock / mimagephotography Shutterstock / mimagephotography / mimagephotography

We’re often told that daydreaming is a sign of a vacant mind, but what if we were to tell you that daydreaming can actually be good for you? We spoke to psychologist Giulia Poerio from the University of York about her research into daydreaming, and the news is good – daydreaming can have a positive effect on your life.

So, feel free to sit back and dream about how your life would be if you owned a private island. But read this first.

What is a daydream exactly?

Poerio tells us that a daydream, strictly speaking is:

A thought that isn’t helpful in the present moment.

That’s not to say though, that daydreaming is not a good thing. Although that particular daydream may not be helping with what you’re doing in the moment, it could be useful for your future. We use daydreaming to anticipate the future and solve problems there, anything from:

… buying milk to thinking about apologising to a friend that you might have upset.

Other daydreams can be anything from travelling the world to thinking about a new promotion.

Why do we daydream?

shutterstock_263096690 Shutterstock / PathDoc Shutterstock / PathDoc / PathDoc

Scientists aren’t sure yet why we daydream, but it has been found that the brain at rest spends a huge amount of energy on daydreaming – so it must be important. Daydreaming has been linked to creativity and problem solving. Poerio says:

Daydreaming allows us to make sense of the past and predict the future. And the ability to do that can help us achieve our goals.

It’s all about the type of daydreaming that you do, and even how you do it. Fanciful daydreaming, while pleasant and a nice distraction from the commute, is not as effective as daydreaming about real parts of our lives such as career or family goals. Imagining what we want to achieve in our lives and how to get there in concrete steps is the best way to actually make that happen.

Although daydreaming about a trip of a lifetime is a lot more fun than daydreaming about having to pick up groceries after work.

How is daydreaming good for us?

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There are a number of ways that daydreaming can be good for us. The main two aspects of daydreaming that Poerio studies are how daydreaming helps with influencing emotional states, and goal setting and achieving.

People are using that idle time to plan for and anticipate the future. And this can be useful for gaining their goals.

Poerio has found through her studies that daydreaming can help with loneliness. Her studies have found that when lonely people daydream about someone they love, they can feel better, even more so than just daydreaming about something good happening to them.

When we ask people what they’re thinking about when they’re daydreaming, they’re thinking about other people. That’s not surprising – other people are the most important things in our lives, and we have this need to belong. Thinking about people who you’re close to can regulate a social need to belong.

She adds: “If you daydream about people that you’re close to that can increase your feeling of connection to people and love. We can use people in our imagination to influence our emotions and help us adapt to situations.”

How can we daydream better?

shutterstock_130679873 Shutterstock / Ollyy Shutterstock / Ollyy / Ollyy

It’s been found that some states are more conducive than others to daydreaming – and these tend to be while doing tasks that engage you but you don’t need to think about such as gardening, taking a walk or washing the dishes. One study found that people who were given boring tasks to do became more creative in their problem-solving. As Poerio says:

When they’re not trying to deliberately problem solve they come up with solutions.

So, there you have it – you’ve no excuse not to do the hoovering now. It will help you daydream better, and could improve your life, too. Remember that next time someone tells you to get your head out of the clouds.

More on daydreaming: How Big A Dreamer Are You?

Fancy doing a little daydreaming this evening? The Euromillions offers you bigger jackpots more often - and more millionaires than ever before. Tonight’s jackpot is an estimated €17m. #ShareTheDream and let us know what you’d do. You might also be interested in checking out our all new Good News section on TheJournal.ie. Only the best and happiest news of the day. Now that’s worth daydreaming about…

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