Daydreamers get a bad rap.
Time-wasters, neurotic, unreliable, idle; the list of offences laid at the feet of daydreamers never seems to end. Daydreamers, those people who conspire with their imaginations and open their mind to vagaries, commonly stand accused of living with their heads permanently in the clouds. And I think to myself: what a wonderful place to be.
If I truly believed daydreaming was such a terrible occupation, then I might feel the need to 'confess' to being a serial daydreamer. Some might argue that daydreaming is simply a habit of selective listening that people allow themselves to get sucked into. But I disagree. Daydreaming on the DLR or letting my mind wander mid-way through writing an article with an imminent deadline is a natural biological predisposition. It's perfectly normal.
But it's not talked about in conversation. You're unlikely to hear anyone admitting loudly and proudly to holding an intimate tete-a-tete with their imagination. Chances are you'll be viewed with incredulity or suspicion - or both. Rarely will you hear someone actually standing up and owning their daydreams, and profess that actually, it didn't detain you against your will; rather you allowed it to come forth.
The truth is, daydreamers aren't lazy, hypersensitive or slightly unhinged. An imaginative state that's commonly linked to distraction and boredom, the capacity to daydream is the body's pretty amazing natural way of allowing thought processes to run their own course, without the worry of screamy emails or an empty fridge weighing on your conscience. It's a big part of cultures far and wide; celebrated and revered too, though you're unlikely to hear about how great daydreaming is from our 9-5 obsessed society that subsists on being alert at all times for the sake of 'productivity'.
Thankfully, the common misperceptions are being slowly unpicked by researchers dedicated to the cause of vindicating daydream enthusiasts. In a recent interview with Fortune, Josh Davis, research director at the New York NeuroLeadership Institute revealed that "always being 'on' blocks the brain processes that occur when we daydream". More than that, Davis claims that the frenetic pace of everyday life, exacerbated by digital technologies, prevents us from thinking ahead long term. "When we're always focused intently on our work, or multitasking, or checking our email for the hundredth time, we block the mental processing that lets us envision where we want to go and how we might be able to get there".
In other words, our reluctance to daydream is actually inhibiting creative thinking, meaning we won't be able to generate ideas, problem-solve, think or plan about the future or integrate events from our past with the present as easily as those daydreaming dilly-dalliers who happily disconnect from the outside world. If you think about it, I'll be there are plenty of times when you've suddenly stood still and realised that six months have whizzed by and all those exciting plans you promised yourself you'd get underway haven't progressed a single inch. If you've ever been immersed so deeply in your work life, that one day you stick your head above the parapet and wonder where all your aspirations flew away to, this is the reason why.
I'd like to propose that daydreamers should be celebrated for their capacity to unroot themselves from the present moment and honour their own imaginations. If nothing else, for the sheer audacity of indulging in an act that basically says "there is nothing more important going on in this moment than allowing my mind to take a whirl where it fancies".
Daydreaming isn't something we need to outgrow - on the contrary, we need to relearn how to daydream once more, and regain that insouciant childlike state of wonder and trust in our imaginations that we didn't think twice about doing when we were tots. We need to stop doubting that our minds haven't got anything to offer. Learning to be alone with your thoughts isn't easy, but ultimately, it allows us to escape the confines of our surroundings - and our identity - if only for a little while. Some believe that daydreaming is actually the first step in the preparation towards actualising one's hopes and dreams; but in any case, keeping the little grey cells sharp with a spot of daydreaming doesn't sound like too bad a pastime to me.