There are some pros and cons of having a wandering mind.
I have stepped into the ocean. The cool waters lap against my legs and a breeze whips through my hair. I watch the white caps tumble further out in the chaotic churn and this makes me smile. I am where I want to be the most.
But I’m not really here.
I sit in a meeting at work and the voice of my employer comes back into focus, as does his face. I struggle, shifting in my seat. I will not drift away this time. I will pay attention…
In moments, I am knee deep in the oceans current again. I just can’t help myself.
Why does the mind wander? I have asked myself this question my entire life. From as far back as I can remember, I created fantasy worlds inside my head. On the bus, on the way home from school, I could drift so far away that it was hard for others to get my attention. Even on the playground, while other children played games, I could wander around playing pretend with myself for the entire time. Was I damaged or something?
I toyed with the notion that everyone was subject to these absences from reality. Then I toyed with the idea that maybe I was the only one, that I was something different than the others. Both ideas were wrong. It seems that I was not the only one who left the bounds of reality to play games in the fanciful. It also turned out that not everyone was prone to this either. Some people were content in this ‘real’ world and this world alone.
But it’s not always good to leave the real world behind, in fact, it can be dangerous. Daydreaming or having a wandering mind can cause accidents like walking into things or even having automobile collisions. All it takes is letting the mind wander at the wrong time. See, this is where that mesmerizing part of you can cause serious trouble. There have been many times that I traveled distances with no recollection of the time spent in route. Chilling, isn’t it?
There are, however, benefits from having a wandering mind. Scientists tested this idea by conducting a writing study:
Participants were asked to write for 15 minutes about future goals, and then complete a cognitive tasking matching shapes on a computer screen. During the task, each participant was interrupted with questions, distracted rather. This was done in order to gauge their attention on the task. After the interruption, the participants wrote once more about future goals. When both sessions were compared, along with self-examination of attentiveness during the cognitive exercises, it was found that plans or future goals were more concrete and stable, improving from pre to post writing sessions.
Apparently, wandering thought improved planning, giving a fresh perspective on ideas and such. With neuroimaging, self-generated cognition was seen during these mind-wandering episodes. This means that a greater coupling of the hippocampus and neural pathways caused the formation of improved strategies for future goals.
Wow! So there are pros and cons to having a wandering mind. Who would have thought? And I don’t just mean improved creativity. A wandering mind can actually prove beneficial to serious aspects of your future, utilizing both a fresh perspective and creative endeavors. I think the key to utilizing this characteristic is finding safe zones in which to allow yourself to wander freely in the cosmos of your mind without being physically harmed.
So when you realize you are daydreaming, don’t be so hard on yourself. You are a unique individual and this is just one more way to appreciate your true colors. After all, you could very well be planning a road of success.
Go ahead, wade out into the water, watch the waves toss to and fro. As long as you keep an eye on the shore, you will be fine. Dream on.
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