Daydreaming can be harmful to your health

Neuroscience That is why daydreams make sense

"Don't dream your life" is well-intentioned parental advice to little dream dancers. However, the ability to dream during the day can actually be useful. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig (MPI CBS) have studied people who consciously let their thoughts wander from time to time, and they found that these people had more pronounced brain regions in the forehead area.

In addition, when they were dreaming, those areas were also active that direct and control their thoughts, i.e. are responsible for concentration. "Our brain hardly seems to make a difference in whether our attention is directed outwardly to our surroundings or inwardly to our thoughts," says Johannes Golchert, doctoral student and first author of the new study, which appeared in the specialist journal "Neuroimage".

In general, Golchert differentiates between thinking on the one hand and dreaming on the other. A chess player, for example, concentrates on the board in front of him and thinks about the task of how to beat his opponent. Someone who is daydreaming, on the other hand, lets his thoughts wander away from his current situation and imagines something that has nothing to do with the present task.

This ability to send their thoughts on travel can use the dreaming, for example to prepare for difficult situations in the future. "I can first mentally play through and simulate many things. If I have a conversation with my boss next week, I can think about it: How would what I say would be received by him?" Explains Golchert. Whoever steers dreams consciously can use them to better solve everyday problems.

According to the scientist, daydreams only become uncomfortable when they occur unintentionally.

You can observe this in yourself, for example when you are in a conversation. Suddenly a thought comes to you and you can't really listen anymore. Then you miss the conversation. Or while reading: You start to skim the lines with just your eyes. At some point you get to the bottom of the page and don't really know what you've actually read.

Daydreams are really dangerous when driving a car. Golchert and his colleagues noticed that in heavy traffic, drivers who easily wander with their thoughts often more or less consciously increase their speed. They also showed slower response times.

On the other hand, dreams are positive as a means of bridging boring situations by making the dreamers think away from the here and now. "People who often think about the future and positive things have felt better afterwards," says Golchert. It is also clear: "Wandering in thought is also associated with creativity."

SPUTNIK daily update | 04/13/2017 | 6:35 pm