“All in the golden afternoon, full leisurely we glide; for both our oars, with little skill, by little hands, make pretense our wanderings to guide.” – Lewis Carroll
This quote is from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. This book is by far one of best portrayals of curiosity, wonder, and imagination that I had the pleasure of coming across in my younger years. I believe that this story is a great teacher in mind-wandering, day dreaming, and coming into one’s own. Alice finds herself in her own little world. There she is taught responsibility and how to be mindful her surroundings. It is also a world where being silly is a compliment, nonsense is a must, and adventure is at every turn.
For me, this is where I go when I let my mind wander. Sometimes it is productive, I can take a break and just think, then I can get back to work feeling refreshed and full of new ideas. I find that it is easiest for my mind to race at night. This is probably because I am an insomniac though I think it is more than that. I have a very active imagination. One of the things that I do best is create little stories in my head. Sometimes they are the product of dreams, other times they are simply just ideas. Some of my best work has come from allowing my mind to wander.
There are many different views when it comes to mind wandering. Some people see it as beneficial, and some see it as destructive. To each their own. If you haven’t formed an opinion yet, then I would like to share with you five benefits to allowing your mind to wander.
Mind-wandering encourages Inquisitiveness:
It is a belief that a wandering-mind creates curiosity, and in turn, curiosity encourages our minds to wander. With the desire for information, with the need and want for knowledge as well as imagination, we have a fountain for creativity. Such creativity can open new ways of thinking, planning, preparing, and ultimately doing. Some of the worlds greatest authors and artists are living, breathing examples of this. We have writers and directors who have seen their dreams come true by simply allowing their minds to wander and their curiosity to grow.
A wandering mind promotes self-imagination and awareness of self:
Self-imagination is like elaborative rehearsal. With elaborative rehearsal, information is transferred from short term to long term memory by focusing on the meaning of the information. With self-imagination, it is much the same. The only difference is that our focus is from a personal perspective. Self-imagination is the process of retrieving information from memory on command. It is centered around the idea that we remember things better if they directly relate to us. Self-imagination not only helps with memory retrieval but it also brings about a sense of self.
It can boost creative thinking:
Contrary to popular belief, letting your mind wander is not a distraction. If anything, it is a way to help you get back on track. If you have ever zoned out during a quiz and snapped out of it knowing the answer to the most difficult question, chances are it is because you let your mind wander. A wandering mind aids creative thinking and allows you to access new ways of processing and imagining. It can help you conjure up new solutions to old problems. It can inspire you to write about new things or learn new languages. A wandering mind is a creative minds’ ultimate asset.
It relieves boredom:
When faced with boring tasks or situations our minds may start to wander. That is okay, just let it. Mind wandering may help reduce tedium by helping pass time. Picture this, you are in line at the DMV waiting for your number to be called. Let’s be honest, you just shivered at the thought. Everybody hates the DMV. Especially when you are number 102 and they’re only on number 47. Thank goodness for cell phones and the internet. Now we can zone out for hours, just watching videos or playing games. But are you only watching YouTube, or are you also thinking of other things? Are you zoning out while reading this right now? Yes? Now you are thinking of a wandering mind while you are zoning out reading about wandering minds. Complex stuff.
Impressive Attentional Cycling:
Mind wandering may provide us with the opportunity to frequently switch between streams of thought. This can enable us to maintain goal-appropriate behaviors for multiple goals at a time. For example parenthood, probably the greatest example of attentional cycling. I am not a parent. I have worked with children for many years though, so I do have some experience and empathy! The ability to go from one task to the next, one stream of thought to another, to provide the best care to a little one is no small feat. This train of thinking can be due to a wandering mind. An extremely fast, often exhausted, wandering mind, but an impressive one none the less.
Did you like this article? If you did, here are some others that you might enjoy as well.
Association for Psychological Science. (2012). Self-Imagination Can Enhance Memory in Healthy and Memory-Impaired Individuals. Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/self-imagination-can-enhance-memory-in-healthy-and-memory-impaired-individuals.html
Holmes, L. (2017). 5 Reasons You Should Let Your Mind Wander. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/28/benefits-of-imagination_n_5508760.html
Mooneyham, B.W., & Schooler, J.W. (2012, July). The Costs and Benefits of Mind-Wandering: A Review. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 67(1), 11-18. Retrieved from https://apa.org/pubs/journals/features/cep-a0031569.pdf
Moore, C., & Barresi, J. (2013, April). Imagination and the Self. Oxford Handbooks Online. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195395761.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780195395761-e-019
Nevid, J.S. (2015). Essentials of Psychology: Concepts and Applications (4th ed.). Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/books/9781305479777.
Shrimpton, D., McGann, D., & Riby, L. M. (2017). Daydream believer: Rumination, self-reflection and the temporal focus of mind wandering content. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 13(4), 794-809. doi:http://dx.doi.org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.5964/ejop.v13i4.1425
Whitten, W. R. (2004). Awake and aware: Utilizing split-attention to link mindful awareness with everyday activities (Order No. 3158598). Available from Psychology Database. (305099239). Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/docview/305099239?accountid=35812