Last month I wrote about mindfulness, the practice of being fully aware in the present moment. I work on being mindful every day, because it really takes a conscious (and sometimes immense) effort to be fully immersed in what I’m doing.
I play with my children and remind myself to pay attention to their words and laughter, instead of creating mental to-do lists. I listen to what my husband is saying and refrain from formulating my response while he is still speaking. I try to enjoy small, simple things I might otherwise miss – the scent of hyacinths on the spring air, or the sound the wind makes as it moves through branches.
I truly feel that awareness and respect for each moment is a powerful thing, one that impacts my life in a simple but powerful way. But, I am a daydreamer. Big time. In school, I would miss entire lessons because I’d be gazing out the window, enacting fantasy scenarios in my head. I think practicing mindfulness really helps bring me back to where I am and what I’m doing (especially when I’m, say, driving a car or crossing the street with two toddlers) but with all the emphasis put on being present in the present, I have to wonder where day dreaming fits in.
The Power of Day Dreaming
Luckily for me, recent research shows that daydreaming may not be the idle, time-wasting distraction it was once regarded as. Certainly, tuning out entire academic lectures isn’t a route to success, but day dreaming in the right place, and at the right time, may bring about a whole range of benefits, including a deeper awareness of self, greater improvisational abilities, a stronger sense of compassion for others, and a richer creativity.
The researchers conducting the studies I read were quick to point out, however, that it was positive day dreaming that developed these qualities, not the cyclical whirlpool of worry or the negative tableaus of pessimism we all sometimes play out in our heads.
And apparently, performing tedious tasks is a great time to engage in some day dreaming, since, although our muscles and minds are occupied with our work, there is still room left over for slipping into happy imaginings – our next vacation, our goals being achieved, or even wonderfully impossible scenarios that will only ever exist in our heads.
Being Present And Day Dreaming
I like that there can be a positive and productive interplay between mindfulness and day dreaming, that I can fully enjoy and appreciate being present in my day and allow myself breaks to simply dream. In fact, I think practicing mindfulness has enhanced my day dreaming. I am more aware of becoming distracted when I really need to be present and I am quicker to realize when day dreaming has started the downward slide into worrying or negative thinking.
I can remind myself to be present when I’m driving on the highway, or engaged in conversation, or even when I’m doing something as simple as appreciating the sunlight on my face. I can also allow myself to drift into happy day dreams as a break when I’m folding laundry, washing dishes, or doing something simple I know I can do well without turning my full attention to it. Who would have thought that having a rich fantasy life could lead to a happier, more fulfilling real one?
Rachel contribute to the site because, with all the negativity and fear being broadcast these days, everyone could use a reminder of the wonder and joy that is always around us, if we only take the time and make the effort to see it.