Our brain thrives on stimulation. We constantly look for distractions, pushing ourselves to always be doing something productive or active. With modern technology such as computers and mobile phones, we have even more ways to use our free time to learn, work and communicate with others (not to mention procrastinating).
However, important as it may be to stay productive and to take action, we seem to have forgotten how to do nothing. There is rarely a moment nowadays when we are truly doing nothing. On our commute to work, we catch up on social media or listen to podcasts. In between tasks, we upload photos or send messages to friends to stay connected. When we have finished our work and chores for the day, we will “unwind” with a show or movie. Even on the toilet, we use our phones to constantly engage our mind.
As much as our mind loves to be stimulated, it also needs rest to process the abundance of information it absorbs during the day. Otherwise, stress starts to pile up from the rushed pace of life and it manifests as crankiness and fatigue. We don’t feel truly rested because when we are supposed to rest, we continue to overwork our mind. What we need is to take five, space out and daydream.
Daydreaming is considered by society as a negative thing. When kids daydream in class, they are told off to focus and do their work. When adults daydream in their own time, others criticise them for being “lazy” and “dull”. It is the direct opposite of what society sees as productivity, where something is created through work and action.
But there is much evidence to suggest that daydreaming has real benefits to your physical and mental health. When you are daydreaming, your body lets its guard down, slowing your brainwaves, heart rate and breathing. Your brain uses that time to consolidate learning, solve complex problems and take inventory of your thoughts and feelings.
Because you have detached yourself from surrounding sensory stimuli, the brain has space to explore the inner workings of your mind, such as your creative side, and coming up with original thoughts. This moment of pause lets your body and mind refresh, allowing it to work more efficiently in processing the past, being mindful of the present and planning for the future.
So unless you absolutely have to be somewhere doing something important right now, take five minutes, put your phone or computer away, look out the window and space out for a bit, letting your mind wander to wherever it pleases. Don’t let anything or anyone distract you and don’t care about what others will think of you.
Lay your weary head to rest and refresh yourself. You deserve a break.