You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…
New research has found that people in the UK spend on average 780 hours a year daydreaming, which is the equivalent of an entire calendar month. It seems we spend a huge amount of time in la la land, with over 80% of people surveyed admitting they allow their mind to wander up to three times every day. And what are we thinking about? Holidays are the nation’s favourite daydream topic, with a whopping 47% of Brits confessing they’ve even imagined quitting their job to get away from it all. Sound familiar?
It can’t be a coincidence that the research, carried out by Travel Republic, has found 11.20am to be peak daydream time. In that fallow time between breakfast and lunch, the hours can seem endless. 11am-noon evidently feels like an eternity for many people who sit forlornly at their desks all over the country wondering if the clock on the wall is broken. Again.
We’ve all had those moments. There you are, delivering a perfectly gracious Oscars acceptance speech to a crowd of adoring fans, when a loud throat-clearing snaps you back to the office and your boss’s disgruntled face. But there’s no need to feel sheepish for allowing yourself to drift off, as another new study has suggested that daydreaming actually improves our productivity at work.
The research, carried out by the Georgia Institute of Technology, found that occasional daydreams can be one of the best ways to become better at what you’re doing. Allowing your brain to unfocus and then refocus can leave daydreamers feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, with newfound motivation to tackle their next task.
The study, which included adults from a range of different occupations, found that the positive effects of daydreams far outweighed the negatives. Although some participants admitted to experiencing initial feelings of guilt after snapping out of their imaginative escapades, many noted a definite improvement in their mood and claimed that they worked harder after allowing themselves to drift off in an attempt to make up for lost time.
Like taking a quick walk outside when stress is building up in the office, the findings suggest that allowing our mind to wander reduces anxious feelings and improves our mood as well as our productivity. So daydreaming is good for our mental health as well as our performance at work? Pause whilst we schedule ‘swaying in a hammock on a beautiful white sand beach’ into our daily to-do list.
In an age where distraction lies quite literally at our fingertips in the form of aimless scrolling sessions on Instagram or ferocious Candy Crush marathons, the news that daydreaming is still a popular pursuit ought to be heartening. In recent years, there have been all sorts of conflicting studies surrounding the activity which, like the dreams we have at night, remains somewhat mysterious in terms of what actually happens to our brains when we do it. However, it’s easy to fathom how allowing our minds to wander once in a while could naturally promote creativity, foster positive thoughts and even lead to inspiration.
In the words of the writer Edgar Allan Poe, ‘those who dream by day are cognisant of many things which escape those who dream only by night’. So next time you get caught out, maybe you should try saying that to your boss. Once they get over their initial confusion over what ‘cognisant’ means hopefully they’ll be pleased you’re boosting your productivity.