The ruler slapped down on the desk, narrowly missing my knuckles and dissolving the magic.
“Daydreaming again? You will pay attention in my class, young lady!” The French mistress, determinedly optimistic to the last, turned her back and returned to the blackboard. Oddly enough, French was always one of my favourite subjects and one at which I did best… in spite of the daydreaming.
It was not the anxious, fretting kind of daydream, not was it just wandering attention. It was like stepping into a wardrobe and coming out the other side into a magical land where anything was possible.
I could daydream my way through most things and still take in, process and apply the information, and was always in the higher sets. I was lucky… back then, I only got into trouble for daydreaming. A few years later and I would probably have been sent to a child psychologist for assessment or medicated for one of the attention deficit disorders, which are very real and do require help… but are probably not quite as widespread in children as fashion once dictated. These days, I might be lucky and have a teacher who understands that daydreaming is actually good for you.
Children are really good at daydreaming. By the time we reach adulthood, many of us have the knack trained out of us as we are forced to ‘pay attention’, focus on what we are supposed to be doing with our lives in the eyes of society. Be sensible and use our brains, rather than our minds. The older we get, the less we tend to daydream.
Albert Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift; the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” It is not the rational mind that knows how to dream. It is more likely to create those logical nightmares where worry plays out every worst-case scenario.
Daydreams, on the other hand, give us a place of peace in which we can achieve more than we might guess. Recent research has shown that daydreaming is linked, unsurprisingly, to creativity. Daydreamers also tend to have more working memory… the kind of free space n the inner drive that allows us to take in information and deal with it effectively whilst occupied on other levels… and that is linked to both cognitive and emotional intelligence.
Daydreaming raises empathy levels as we can explore human relationships in the safety of our make-believe worlds…and take what we learn there out into reality. It is not so very different from some of the meditation and creative visualisation techniques that get a far better rap than mere daydreaming… and yet yield similar results. The same applies to when the mind wanders so far that there seem to be neither thoughts nor vision… just a blank, restful page…. a goal many forms of meditation teach as being their version of the Holy Grail and which cannot be achieved by striving for it.
Contrary to popular belief… especially amongst employers and French teachers… daydreaming can increase productivity. And not only because you can rehearse your next presentation or interview ‘in’ there and boost your confidence, but because daydreaming lowers stress, encourages creativity and improves memory. It makes you happier too, as the mind indulges in play and finds joy.
So the next time you find yourself daydreaming, taking a break from the demands of reality, don’t reach for the metaphorical ruler to rap your knuckles… let your mind enjoy its holiday instead.