Let Your Mind Wander
Until recently daydreaming was generally considered either a waste of time or a symptom of neurotic
tendencies, and habitual daydreaming was regarded as evidence of maladjustment
or an escape from life's realities and responsibilities. It was believed that habitual daydreaming would eventually distance people from society and reduce their effectiveness in coping with real problems. At its best, daydreaming was considered a compensatory substitute for the real things in life.
As with anything carried to excess, daydreaming can be harmful. There are always those who would substitute fantasy lives for the rewards of real activity. But such extremes are relatively race, and there is a growing body of evidence to support the fact that most people suffer from a lack of daydreaming rather than an excess of it. We are now beginning to learn how valuable it really is and that when individuals are completely prevented form daydreaming, their emotional balance can be disturbed. Not only are they less able to deal with the pressures of day-to-day existence, but also their self-control and self-direction become endangered. Recent research indicates that daydreaming is part of daily life and that a certain amount each day is essential for maintaining equilibrium. Daydreaming, science has discovered, is an effective relaxation technique. But its beneficial effects go beyond this. Experiments show that daydreaming significantly contributes to intellectual growth, powers of concentration, and the ability to interact and communicate with others.
In an experiment with schoolchildren in New York, Dr. Joan Freberg observed improved concentration: "There was less running around, more happy feelings, more talking and playing in the group, and more attention paid to detail."
In another experiment at Yale University. Dr. Jerome Singer found that daydreaming resulted in improved self-control and enhanced creative thinking ability. Daydreaming, Singer pointed out, is one way individuals can improve upon reality. It is, he concluded, a powerful spur to achievement.
But the value of daydreaming does not stop here. It has been found that it improves a person's ability to be better adapted to practical, immediate concerns, to solve everyday problems, and to come up more readily with new ideas. Contrary to popular belief, constant and conscious effort at solving a problem is, in reality, one of the most inefficient ways of coping with it. While conscious initial effort is always necessary, effective solutions to especially severe problems frequently occur when conscious attempts to solve them have been put off. Inability to relax, to let go of a problem, often prevents its solution.
Historically, scientists and inventors are one group that seems to take full advantage of relaxed moments. Their biographies
reveal that their best ideas seem to have occurred when they were relaxing and daydreaming. It is ell known, for example, that Newton solved many of his toughest problems when his attention was waylaid by private musings. Thomas Alva Edison also knew the value of "half waking" states. Whenever confronted with a task which seemed too hard to be dealt with, he would stretch out on his laboratory sofa and let fantasies flood mind.
Painters, writers, and composers also have drawn heavily on their sensitivity to inner fantasies. Debussy used to gaze at the River Seine and the golden reflections of the setting sun to establish an atmosphere for creativity. Brahms found that ideas came effortless only when he approached a state of deep daydreaming. And Cesar Frank is said to have walked around with a dreamlike gaze while composing, seemingly totally unaware of his surroundings.
Many successful people actually daydreamed their successes and achievements long before they realized them. Henry J. Kaiser maintained that "you can imagine your future," and he believed that a great part of his business success was due to positive use of daydreams. Harry S. Truman said that he used daydreaming for rest. Conrad Hilton dreamed of operating a hotel when he was a boy. He recalled that all his accomplishments were first realized in his imagination.
"Great living starts with a picture, held in some person's imagination, of what he would like someday to do or be. Florence Nightingale dreamed of being a nurse. Edison pictured himself an inventor; all such characters escaped the mere push of circumstance by imagining a future so vividly that they headed for it." These are the words of the well-known thinker Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, and they show that people can literally daydream themselves to success. Fosdick, aware of the wonderful power of positive daydreaming, offered this advice: "Hold a picture of yourself long and steadily enough in your mind's eye, and you will be drawn toward it. Picture yourself vividly as defeated and that alone will make victory impossible. Picture yourself as winning and that will contribute remarkably to success. Do not picture yourself as anything, and you will drift like an abandoned ship at sea."
To get the results, you should picture yourself - as vividly as possible - as you want to be. The important thing to remember is to picture these desired objectives as if you had already attained them. Go over several times the details of these pictures. This will deeply impress them on your memory, and these memory traces will soon start influencing your everyday behavior toward the attainment of the goal.
While exercising your imagination, you should be alone and completely undisturbed. Some individuals seem to have the ability to tune into their private selves in the midst of the noisiest crowds or company. But most of us, especially when the experience is new, require an environment free from outside distraction.
A life lived without fantasy and daydreaming is a seriously impoverished one. Each of us should put aside a few minutes daily, taking short 10- or 15-minute vacations. Daydreaming is highly beneficial to your physical and mental well-being, and you will find that this modest, inexpensive investment in time will add up to a more creative and imaginative, a more satisfied, and a more self-fulfilled you. It offers us a fuller sense of being intensely alive from moment to moment, and this, of course, contributes greatly to the excitement and joy of living.