Benefits of Daydreaming: The Great Escape

There are several months out of the year that get so busy I can’t even think. August is one of them. On the busiest weekend in August I’m looking forward to a little oasis of free time. I’m sitting in a row of chairs closely lined up together so I decide not to break out the Kindle. It’s mostly got erotica on it right now that is bit more racy than the copy of Fifty Shade of Grey that is being read by an older woman sitting further down the row. I decide to flip through an LA Weekly instead even though I’d rather be reading a book. I am slightly amused by the thought of summer being a time to catch up on reading. You see it written about everywhere and always with a stock photo of someone lying lazily in a hammock or on the beach with book in hand. I always fall behind on my reading during the summer. It’s hard to find real mental down time between keeping the kids occupied enough to not kill each other, family commitments and dancing.

As I rather mindlessly gaze at the pages I stop momentarily on an ad for a romantic getaway. It is in that moment that my mind wanders while looking at the romantically entwined couple in the photo. A private jet and champagne sounds wonderful on this insanely hot day filled with responsibility. I lose myself in the notion of being swept away. Specifically I’m suddenly in an episode of Doctor Who and I’m being invited on an adventure exploring time and space. It may look like I’m reading the same page in the paper for 20 minutes but I’m really somewhere else. Unfortunately my reverie is broken by the women next to me who strikes up a conversation for no other reason other than I’m there and she has nothing else to do. As I am abruptly forced back into reality a word pops into my head. “Escape.”

I had spent some time thinking of this word several weeks ago but it took on a special significance to me at that moment. I was thinking of it in terms of physically getting away. Getting out of an unhealthy situation, getting away from routine or simply going away on vacation. It occurred to me that we could not only physically escape but also mentally escape. We can lose ourselves in a fascinating book, a compelling movie or a favorite television show. I love to escape into books, movies and television. I unfortunately find less time for these things in the increasing hectic state of my life as a Mom of two young kids. Luckily I have one form of escape that has stood the test of time. A place I love to go when there is too much going on and life is overwhelming. Or even just a place to go when there is time to kill. It’s my own head, the theater of the mind, my daydreams.

Daydreaming is sometimes thought of as a waste of time in a culture that seems obsessed with productivity. Recent studies have discovered it has many benefits. Not only can we use it to problem solve or boost creativity it can also help us get through the relentless pressure we often experience. Cost of living on the rise, air travel so expensive it’s out of reach of many and the need to work harder to just get by can be tough on the brain. Taking the time to tune out for a moment can give us the break we need to keep going. Perhaps that’s the allure of Christian Grey and the reason behind the popularity of the Fifty Shades series. Daydreaming about being swept away by a handsome rich man who attends to your every need, even controls your daily life, can be a welcome relief when taking control of your life gets stressful and difficult. Imagining yourself being romanced by vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen, on a pirate adventure with Captain Jack Sparrow, capturing spies like James Bond, exploring along with Indiana Jones or, in my case, racing through time and space with The Doctor are all wonderful ways to escape. We can put ourselves in the starring role as the seductive vampire, the swashbuckling pirate, the super spy or we take the passenger seat and be the Bond girl, the anthropologist sidekick or a Doctor Who companion.

While I’ve used my daydreaming to be creative or problem solve I mostly use it to tell elaborate stories. Books I’m forever writing in my head but never putting down on paper. My daydreams are complex productions in which the concept of escape is played out in storylines that can last for days, weeks and even months. I daydream about being taken out of an ordinary life and led by the hand into an extraordinary adventure. Sometimes I spend a little too much time in this dream world, especially at times when life has been the most stressful, but it’s a survival technique. I need those moments where I become rock star, travel through space, meet a vampire (I prefer Lestat to Edward) or save the world in the nick of time. If I couldn’t daydream I’d have a lot harder time dealing with financial hardships and the challenges of parenthood.

My little mental get away keeps me going. It’s an oasis, a sanctuary. Daydreaming requires nothing to facilitate it and can be done pretty much anywhere. You can continue a storyline from a book or show, imagine that vacation or adventure you’ve always wanted or have those illicit sexy encounters you’ve never had. It can be a safety measure to ease your brain in times of anxiety and a way to work out problems creatively. Going over a future project or recalling the events in a recent meeting can be done while waiting at a street light or washing the dishes. These moments where your mind wanders can provide answers to a difficult problem or help you learn from a mistake. It can also get your mind off of your troubles long enough to relax and reboot your brain. Take a moment to let your mind wander and escape. It could do you a world of good.

Originally published on Silence Cupcake


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