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I was bored a lot in school. Teachers droned on about tedious things that had little relevance to my life. Like geometry. So in between lessons, I daydreamed. I daydreamed about where I wanted my life to be when I was thirty. I daydreamed about the lives of the models in my Seventeen magazine. I daydreamed about what I would do if I won a multi-million dollar lottery (let's face it, I still daydream about that.) Daydreaming was my little escape from reality. It was better than reading a book or watching television. Sure, it frequently got me into trouble, and led to long lectures from my parents (which I also daydreamed through), but it was free entertainment that gave my already overactive imagination something to chew on.
Mostly I daydreamed about being a writer - specifically, a fashion journalist. I would be tall, and slim, and impossibly glamorous. I'd strut down Manhattan sidewalks in Gucci leather pants and red lipstick I'd received care of Chanel. I'd fly to Milan and Paris for fashion week where I'd refuse to eat carbs and mingle with photographers. Interns would chase me down for quotes. My time would be split between my Soho loft and the Buenos Aires flat I shared with my polo-playing boyfriend, which we'd decorate with austere furniture and exotic antiques picked up during international travel.
Daydreaming gets a bad rap. In an adult context, it's usually associated with flakiness and laziness. Call someone a daydreamer and they'll consider it an insult."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." Psychologists estimate that we daydream for one-third to one-half of our waking hours, although a single daydream lasts only a few minutes.
Here's the good news: Daydreaming has some real benefits. Daydreams can be used to motivate you, help reduce anxiety over upcoming situations, and cultivate the same deep levels of relaxation meditation does. Daydreaming makes it easy for us to tap into parts of our brain that normally close off when we are very focused or are on deadline, and allows us to envision and problem-solve. But daydreaming has the greatest benefits when it comes to increasing creativity. Cultivating your imagination can only be done with practice, and the result can often lead to a boost in your creative abilities. Daydreaming helps you to organize thoughts and think of new perspectives; no matter how crazy and outrageous your dream may be, there are some instances where you can actually apply the ideas in real life.
Here are some ways to use daydreaming to become more creative and productive:
- Give yourself a break. If you find yourself admonishing your brain for daydreaming, try to remember that escapist daydreams alleviate stress and give you the energy to return to the task you were working on.
- Notice your daydreams. Become aware of the daydreams that come to you, both when you're working and not. Look for patterns and repeating themes.
- Make the time and space for daydreaming. This is especially important during moments when your brain has time to wander (while running, about to go to sleep, etc.)
- Record your daydreams in a way that works for you. Many creative types write their daydreams down, and use them to fuel future projects.