Summer has finally arrived with seemingly endless sunny days here to stay as we celebrate the fourth of July. It may harken us back to our glory days, reminding us of those long, lazy carefree days we enjoyed in our youth. Those fond memories of summer felt like they would last forever with eternal downtime to just relax, play and daydream.
But like a bronze summer tan that ultimately fades away, those glorious days of yore may seem a distant memory. In our modern, chaotic world where we are connected 24/7, it’s a rarity to get any down time for ourselves. Checking out and disconnecting for a few hours, let alone days, feels virtually impossible with our endless obligations. Worse yet, it is viewed as a sign of weakness, as if your frail mind cannot handle the demands of the world today. Perhaps the greatest tragedy is most of us are so addicted to our Smartphones and Tablets that we choose not to escape even when our schedules allow for it, feeling helpless to our technology. Society views non-doing behavior negatively, preferring to reward activity and regard productivity more highly.
But unscheduled time is the fertile ground where daydreams take root. Daydreaming is essential to our lives and we do it more than we think, with up to half of our mental activity spent in reverie. This may sound like a waste of time but it’s an important function as we are helping ourselves to realize goals and reveal to ourselves our innermost desires. Humanistic psychologists found that successful people, from Einstein to Beethoven, attributed daydreaming as an inspiration for achievement. There are numerous examples of creative people, ranging from novelists (ahem) to musicians to filmmakers, who develop new ideas via daydreams.
We now are learning that the mind-body connection cannot distinguish between real and imagined events. Visualization, a type of mindful daydreaming, is a technique of using one’s imagination to visualize specific behaviors or outcomes. Many athletes have effectively deployed this to enhance their performance, seeing themselves holding a gold medal or waving to an elated crowd upon winning an upcoming game. For all of us, daydreams can help us relax by simply creating a visualization of a soothing scene. Through a brief uncoupling from reality, we solve problems and become creative in ways we never could do through conscious will.
Think of the last time you were gazing off far away in your office or window seat of an airplane. Where did your mind take you? Pay attention to where you drift off to as it may enlighten you on what you truly need or desire. If you need a refresher, carve out some time this summer just to lie on the beach or a grassy park and stare out into the deep blue sky for awhile. Allow yourself the time to let your mind wander to some faraway place. You may just get a glimpse of a new dimension that typically eludes you or, if nothing else, a great escape from the madness of everyday life.