Tag Archives: Daydreaming

#amwriting: mind wandering

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Sea Stacks at Tillamook Head © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson

We have long known that creative people are often guilty of daydreaming, but researchers have shown that daydreaming makes you more creative. Right now I am on vacation, and my output of writing has been sporadic–it comes in bursts. Here by the sea I find myself thinking about…nothing.

Sometimes I realize I’ve been gazing at the scenery with no conscious awareness of thought for long stretches of time. This means my mind is completely at rest. With this relaxing of conscious thought, I become rested, and my mind is cleared of the white-noise that hinders my creative process.

Eugenio M. Rothe, a psychiatrist at Florida International University, says:  “Many times the ‘dialogue’ that occurs when the daydreaming mind cycles through different parts of the brain accesses information that was dormant or out of reach. Likewise, the daydreaming mind may make an association between bits of information that the person had never considered in that particular way.”

Intriguingly, the physiology of the brain itself, and not the “mind” controls our daydreams. Anthony Jack, a cognitive scientist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio says,

“How we daydream and think depends on the brain’s structure. …(That) structure is constantly changing in small ways—as we learn new things the connections between nerve cells change.” (Read “Beyond the Brain” in National Geographic magazine.)

I usually work 10-16 hour days. I don’t do it intentionally, but it happens. Thus, taking a complete break away from my desk is critical. At home, I might go out to my back porch and observe the neighborhood. It’s peaceful out there, but here, where Ecola Creek meets the Pacific Ocean, I am away from my usual tasks. I have no schedule, and my editing work is on hold. I am writing this post via the stream-of-conscious method rather than preparing it ahead on Sunday as I usually do.

My mind has been defragging this week. I can feel my spirit growing lighter, less concerned about the small annoyances. I don’t need sunshine to free my subconscious thoughts–I just need the sea.

My husband is relaxing too. He has only called his office once, and on finding the small problem there was easily settled, he is relaxing and enjoying the peace of the moment.

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Sea Stacks in the Mist at Tillmook Head © Connie J. Jasperson 2016

The ocean right now at 5:57 am is shrouded in fog. The sea stacks are islands in the mist. For an hour or so more, the gulls and other sea birds will own the beach, and they are making the most of their time.

Soon early risers like me will be up, some letting the dogs go for a run, others just wandering the shore, thinking about nothing in particular.

Today we will go down to Haystack Rock with a picnic lunch and if the wind is right we’ll fly the kite. That is all the plans we have for the day. I may write when I get back, or I may continue reading. Whichever I do, it will be interspersed with long moments of staring out at those amazing rock formations where Ecola meets the sea.

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#MindWandering: The Power of Downtime

Veneto,_Bartolomeo_-_Lucrezia_Borgia_(alleged),_detail_of_portraitDaydreaming…wasting time…selfish indulgence, or fountain of creativity?

WebMD says, quote:  “Daydreaming is looked upon negatively because it represents ‘non-doing’ in a society that emphasizes productivity,” says John McGrail, a clinical hypnotherapist in Los Angeles. “We are under constant pressure to do, achieve, produce, succeed.”

Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge, describes Daydreaming as “a short-term detachment from one’s immediate surroundings, during which a person’s contact with reality is blurred and partially substituted by a visionary fantasy, especially one of happy, pleasant thoughts, hopes or ambitions, imagined as coming to pass, and experienced while awake.”

Apparently we daydream less as we get older. I wonder, is this nature, or nurture?

What really happens when we allow ourselves to just sit and think about nothing in particular? What happens on a neurological level when we let our minds off the leash, to run free and unencumbered?

One interesting fact is that apparently, if we daydream about the past, we tend to forget what we were doing before the daydream started. This happens to me all the time.

But most people don’t ponder the past. “Daydreaming is often about anticipating the future, especially in a fantasy context,” noted Peter Delaney, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, in the July 3, 2013 issue of National Geographic.

'A_Girl_Copying_a_Drawing'_by_Martin_Drolling,_Pushkin_Museum PD 100 via wikimedia commonsAnd according to the Daily Mail, Prof. Moshe Bar, of the Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, said, “Over the last 15 or 20 years, scientists have shown that – unlike the localized neural activity associated with specific tasks – mind wandering involves the activation of a gigantic default network involving many parts of the brain.”

Also, I have just learned that daydreaming turns off parts of your brain. It’s true–our brain has an analytic part that helps us make reasoned decisions, and an empathetic part that allows us to relate to others. Researchers have discovered that when you are daydreaming, your mind naturally cycles through the different modes of thinking, analytic and empathetic. Apparently, during this time the analytic and empathetic parts of your brain tend to turn each other off.

Another intriguing thing I have only just found out is that the physiology of the brain itself, and not the “mind” controls our daydreams. Anthony Jack, a cognitive scientist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio says, “How we daydream and think depends on the brain’s structure. …(That) structure is constantly changing in small ways—as we learn new things the connections between nerve cells change.” (Read “Beyond the Brain” in National Geographic magazine.)

We have long known that creative people are often guilty of daydreaming, but researchers have shown that daydreaming makes you more creative.

“Many times the ‘dialogue’ that occurs when the daydreaming mind cycles through different parts of the brain accesses information that was dormant or out of reach,” notes Eugenio M. Rothe, a psychiatrist at Florida International University. “Likewise, the daydreaming mind may make an association between bits of information that the person had never considered in that particular way.”

Autumn_Landscape_With_Pond_And_Castle_Tower-Alfred_Glendening-1869According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a wandering mind can impart a distinct cognitive advantage.

This means that daydreaming is actually good for you. It boosts the brain, making our thought process more effective. Apparently letting the mind wander allows a kind of ‘default neural network’ to engage when our brain is at wakeful rest, as in meditation, rather than actively focused on the outside world. When we daydream, our brain is freed up to process tasks more effectively.

This is good to know, because as an author I spend an astounding amount of time daydreaming, and I would hate to be simply wasting time!

(This post was first published September 15, 2015 on Edgewise Words Inn)

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Filed under Publishing, Uncategorized, writer