Is Daydreaming Good For You? Experts Say It's OK, But Here's When It Can Be A Problem
Some people suffer from RBF (ahem — resting b*tch face); others, like myself, suffer from what I’ve coined as ZOF: zoning out face. I bet you can visualize exactly what I’m referring to. It’s when your eyes kind of gloss over, as if you’ve fallen asleep with them wide open. Physically, you’re in the present moment; mentally, you’re far, far away. At some point or another, everyone goes out of focus, but is daydreaming good for you, really? Sure, you could argue that it’s a testament to the imagination, but you don’t daydream because you’re a creative person. You do it because you’re either stressed TF out, or just plain bored.
Personally, I’ve never given much thought to why we, as humans, daydream. But it’s quite an interesting occurrence when you really analyze the act. Think about it: You’re literally falling into a kind of asleep-while-awake state of mind where everything around you goes out of focus, and you’re hyper-aware of thoughts and visuals that aren’t even there. Talk about being in your head too much.
What’s more, daydreaming is something you sort of stumble into unconsciously when your mind begins to wander, but you can also take a step back from reality and choose to dream up these vivid images to intentionally give yourself a break from reality.
Carolina Castaños, therapist and founder of the program Moving On, tells Elite Daily that when you daydream, you do so to “process experiences.” Through these “fantasies,” so to speak, you can imagine a future you want, or a past experience you wish to have gone differently. It’s a way to express your emotions internally.
This is all well and good in the moment, but daydreaming is only a temporary break from reality.
J.K. Rowling once wrote, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” While this may seem like just another one of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s many wise phrases to Harry Potter fans, there is some fact to this fictional character’s speech.
According to doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker Dr. Danielle Forshee, daydreaming isn’t the greatest coping mechanism in the book. “Some people purposely try to engage in psychological distractions when they want to avoid whatever is on their mind,” Forshee tells Elite Daily.
Losing yourself in these thoughts may feel good in the moment, she continues, but in reality, it’s all a facade and, in the long run, is “likely to have more negative than positive benefits.” In other words, this kind of psychological relief isn't necessarily a bad thing; it just shouldn't be your go-to when dealing with stress or anxiety.
The positive side of daydreaming is that it provides you with an emotional break from all the real life responsibilities and workloads dealt to you on a daily basis. Daydreaming, Castaños tells Elite Daily, is a way to "wind down, see things in a different way, and feel refreshed" when you're ready to go back to work. Again, it's when you start relying on daydreaming to help you cope with reality that it can become problematic.
Emotionally, daydreaming acts as a kind of release, but what does zoning out actually do to your brain?
Circling back to that creative point I was making earlier, it turns out daydreaming actually stimulates the right hemisphere of your brain which, Castaños tells Elite Daily, is considered your “creative and emotional brain.” Makes sense, right?
Behind your right ear, she continues, is an important part of the brain that makes sense of things that otherwise wouldn’t normally relate to one another, inspiring “new and creative insights.” So while, in some instances, daydreaming really is just a means of entertainment, oftentimes it’s a way for your brain to rationalize and figure out creative solutions to problems you might be having in real life.
But when daydreaming becomes too much for your brain, it could start interfering with your sleep cycle.
Chris Brantner, a certified sleep science coach at SleepZoo.com, tells Elite Daily that, according to a study from the University of California, zoning in and out of reality too often could be one of the many root causes of insomnia. "The idea," Brantner says, "is that people who daydream can't stop thoughts from coming into their head, and thus have greater trouble getting to sleep."
The key, he adds, is to not give in to these daydreams. Rather than tossing and turning in bed all night, sit up and engage in a relaxing activity, like reading, that prepares your brain for rest.
Overall, there's a difference between the occasional daydream, and tuning out as a means of dissociation from your surroundings. It's OK, and quite normal, to lose yourself in this dreamlike state, but keep in mind that the relief you feel is only temporary. Eventually, you'll have to face whatever it is that's bothering you. Until then, I'm wishing you sweet daydreams!