Day-dreams are made of these!

Day-dreaming or "zoning-out" helps the mind and body cope with the stresses of everyday life and also maintain our balance

Day-dreaming is a state when we are awake and in a conscious state. It is also a state when our mind is not focused on the present and real world. Our mind is elsewhere; we are "lost" in thought and occupy a space of our own.

According to experts, day-dreaming occurs when the right or creative side of the brain takes over cognitive [thinking] or the logical left brain, so that we don't keel with the effort of "being there" all the time. It helps us to relax and de-stress, and is a kind of meditation.

The only difference between meditation and day-dreaming is that while the former asks us to clear the brain of all thoughts, during day-dreaming we are assailed by an innumerable number of thoughts. We may dream about the past, the future, or how to deal with the present. The mind may move forward in time, or retrieve memory and replay situations that may be pleasant or unpleasant. The mind may also try to grapple with certain pressing issues. The point is that we may be thinking of myriad things — except the task on hand.

Essential part of life

  • The holiday that we plan to take this year
  • When kids grow up, how much free time we will have
  • What to gift our mother
  • How to convince our friend to let us drive his new car
  • A story idea for a book
  • How to clinch that million-rupee deal
  • Any other thought.

Day-dreams take us away from the mundane and the humdrum and into the land of many possibilities. Psychologists estimate that we day-dream a lot, nearly one-third to one-half of our waking hours, but a single day-dream lasts only a few minutes.

Day-dreaming is regarded as a negative attribute in our over-conscious, high-productivity-focused world today. Day-dreaming is meant, therefore, for people who are unproductive and time-wasters, and do not contribute to society in any way.

However, day-dreaming is an essential part of life, just like breathing. If we did not have dreams, we would have no vision, no ideas or "eureka" moments. There would be no airplanes if the Wright brothers did not have their "flights of fancy;" no light bulb if Edison did not have ideas flashing in his head.

The advantages of day-dreaming

Creativity. Writers, artists, copywriters, dancers, visualisers, thinkers and innovators are day-dreamers. Their dreams enrich the world and society in which they live and lay the foundation for future progress

De-stress. The mind wanders to thoughts, both pleasant and unpleasant, which may make us smile or trouble us. Pleasant thoughts are instant de-stressors. The unpleasant ones are mulled over in an attempt to find solutions, which once found, help us to relax

Solution finding and conflict resolution. During the process of day-dreaming, we are often multi-tasking, finding solutions to problems both minute [what to prepare for dinner] and insurmountable [how to ask the boss for a raise]

Increased peacefulness. Day-dreaming helps us to come to terms with ourselves and restores a degree of peace. A greater peace of mind ensures good mental prowess

Heightened awareness. We become more conscious and observant of our immediate surroundings and the world around us once we awaken from a day-dream

More power. Day-dreaming helps us to unwind, and we return to the task at hand with a clear mind and a fresh approach, bringing greater productivity.

Focused day-dreaming

Very often we make a conscious effort to day-dream about something for which we want to find a solution. At this time we may appear "spaced out" to others, but in actual fact we are concentrating very hard on some problem. We may not appear responsive, but our brain is on maximum alert.

When we should not day-dream

While it is all right to day-dream, there are certain situations where it would be fatal to do so.

  • If we are in the middle of performing surgery
  • If we are cooking or driving
  • If we are crossing the street
  • Any other situation where we are required to be highly alert and focused.

It is true that if we only day-dream and do not translate our dreams into positive realities, we do become guilty of being unproductive and lazy. Day-dreaming is not at all bad for us, in fact we all need it, but we have to ensure that we do not day-dream all the time.

Day-dreaming for Relaxation

We are not always able to escape our environment when we feel stressed. For some, taking a simple walk to clear the head is something that must be put off. What we all can do, though, is take a few moments to sit in our chair and day-dream to melt away our stress.

Obviously, not any sort of day-dream will do. You have to day-dream with a specific sort of imagery to relax. Used with deep breathing, imagery can be a powerful anti-stress tool. Day-dreaming makes good use of our imagination. From imagination we can draw on any number of experiences. We can recall a time and a place where we were at peace, where our surroundings were blissful, and beautiful to the eye. We can recreate from memory to bring ourselves out of a stressful situation - into an intensely relaxing situation.

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Radhika Iyengar
Radhika Iyengar, a Delhi University English literature student, is a member of a writers' group. She's also a theatre buff, and is as captivated by movies, music, and kaajal pencil, and her long, relaxing walks with her dog — but, not necessarily in that order.

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