Daydreams are the fantasies we have while we are awake. The dreams which come while we are not sleeping. Daydreaming is the act of getting detached oneself from current external tasks and diverting one’s mind and attention to more personal and internal concerns. Daydreaming, According to Freudian Psychology, daydreaming is the expression of repressed instincts comparable to those that manifest in night dreams. The phenomenon is also known as mind wandering, fantasy, spontaneous thoughts, etc. Daydreams are of many types and all the types meet the criteria of mild dissociation from real ongoing life.
Functions served by Daydreaming
There are five potential functions of Daydreaming given by Mooneyham and Schooler includes Future thinking, Creative thinking, attention cycling, Dishabituation, and Relief from Boredom.
- Future thinking: This is also known as autobiographical thinking., It is one of the functions of daydreaming and it provides a means of speculating and anticipating the future events. This allows better planning and preparation of future goals. Daydreams are more likely to be future-focused rather than past or present focused and this can be harmful sometimes. So much so that future orientation can lead to escape and denial from reality and the present.
- Creative thinking: It is also one of the functions of daydreaming that is associated with increased creativity. To tackle unsolved problems in a creative way, it needs undemanding conditions rather than attention-demanding conditions. In undemanding conditions, the frequency of daydreaming is the highest, and thus, daydreaming helps to come up with creative solutions to unsolved problems.
- Attention Cycling: The next function of daydreaming is attention cycling. It is an adaptive function as it helps in keeping an individual’s behaviors relatively optimal when there are so many target problems to focus on at the same time. Daydreaming provides individuals with the opportunity to switch to different thoughts when they have many goals.
- Dishabituation: The next function of daydreaming is dishabituation, which is a form of recovered behavioral response wherein the reaction towards a known stimulus is enhanced. Dishabituation in daydreaming is a phenomenon that allows the mind to drift away from intensive learning temporarily and to focus again with the refreshed capability to continue focusing on attention–demanding tasks.
- Relief from Boredom: It is also an adaptive function of daydreaming. Daydreaming allows people to get freshen up after doing boring tasks as daydreaming involves detaching from current external tasks. This temporary detachment will not stop the ongoing activities completely when they are necessary.
Theories behind daydreaming
The three theories which are devised to explain the reasons behind the question, of why an individual daydream includes the Distractibility Account, Executive Function Account, and Decoupling Account.
According to the Distractibility Account, the activity of the brain increases as there is an increase in attention to daydreaming and the mind tends to dwell on unrelated thoughts. It states that a distracting stimulus, be it internal or external, reflects a failure to disregard or control distractions in the mind.
The Executive – Function Account proposes that the mind fails to correctly process task-relevant events. This theory is based on the observation of the task unrelated thoughts cause an increase in errors regarding task-focused thinking.
According to Decoupling Account, the attention becomes decoupled, that is, removed from perceptual information, which involves an external task, and couples to an internal process, in which task-unrelated thoughts are disengaged from surrounding distractions. Is daydreaming adaptive or maladaptive?
As we saw in previous paragraphs daydreaming serves various purposes. It gives us great joy and an escape from boredom. Some studies also show the connection between daydreaming and creativity, but daydreaming can be in both ways, positive and negative. Negative because it leads to detachment from real life to fantasy life and if the thoughts of daydreaming are negative, it can create a negative impact on the individual. It has the potential to obstruct learning. Daydreaming has also been linked to lower scores on measures of general intelligence and memory capacity in other research. Many times, a person unnecessarily indulges in daydreaming which is a total waste of productive time.
On the other hand, in a positive way, daydreaming is good as it refreshes one’s mind and helps to focus more effectively on real-life tasks. It also helps in problem-solving. In one of the studies conducted by the University of Sheffield, it is proved that Daydreaming has also been positively linked with feeling socially connected. Though there are some pros to daydreaming, evidence also showed its benefits are relatively weak compared with the cons. It is always advisable that we all should try a little bit more to be in the present moment – we might be a lot happier as a result. It is always advisable to practice mindfulness which includes being in the present moment.
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