Creativity and your wandering mind

How often have you found yourself staring out the window of a classroom, office, or bedroom, thinking of something apart from the moment, work, or relationships?

Daydreaming ‒ moments when your mind seems to wander and imagine things almost on its own ‒ hasn’t received the best rap over the past couple of decades. That needs to change.

Many years ago daydreaming was viewed as a type of mental disability. If you daydream, you’re in danger of psychosis, some would say. The great psychologist Sigmund Freud labeled daydreaming as “infantile and neurotic.” So is it any surprise that daydreaming is shunned in schools and at many companies?

Daydream and you’re likely to be associated with slackers and the unmotivated.

But the truth is far from the generalizations and misunderstandings that have been made around daydreaming. Research is quickly showing that daydreaming not only builds up the mind, it can also improve your thinking and creativity by allowing your mind to use a default thinking network while also focus on task or problem.

In a recent New York Times article, Discovering the Virtues of a Wandering Mind, John Tierney gets us the details of daydreaming and creativity. John explains:

Studies have found that people prone to mind wandering also score higher on tests of creativity … “For creativity you need your mind to wander,” Dr. Schooler says, “but you also need to be able to notice that you’re mind wandering and catch the idea when you have it. If Archimedes had come up with a solution in the bathtub but didn’t notice he’d had the idea, what good would it have done him?”

Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt.