How Intentional Daydreaming and Mindfulness Can Work Together

The core information in this article on daydreaming and mindfulness is a summary of an article on the benefits of intentional daydreaming from the Australian Insititute of Professional Councillors. Included with this information are my own reflections on what this research raises in relationship to my own meditation/mindfulness practice and use of intentional daydreaming.

What is intentional daydreaming?

Intentional daydreaming is a type of mind-wandering that is voluntary, goal-directed, and positive. It involves using our imagination to explore different scenarios, possibilities, and solutions, as well as to reflect on our personal values, goals, and aspirations. Intentional daydreaming can be contrasted with unintentional daydreaming, which is involuntary, distracting, and often negative. Unintentional daydreaming can impair our attention, memory, and performance, while intentional daydreaming can enhance them.

How does intentional daydreaming benefit us?

According to the article, intentional daydreaming can have various benefits for our cognitive, emotional, and social well-being. Some of these benefits are:

  • Creativity: Intentional daydreaming can stimulate our creative thinking and problem-solving abilities, as it allows us to generate novel and original ideas, and to find connections and associations among diverse concepts.
  • Focus: Intentional daydreaming can improve our focus and concentration, as it helps us to filter out irrelevant information, and to switch between different tasks and perspectives more efficiently.
  • Memory: Intentional daydreaming can enhance our memory and learning, as it helps us to consolidate and integrate new information, and to retrieve and recall relevant information more easily.
  • Mood: Intentional daydreaming can boost our mood and happiness, as it helps us to cope with stress and negative emotions, and to experience positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, and hope.
  • Self-awareness: Intentional daydreaming can increase our self-awareness and self-regulation, as it helps us to understand ourselves better, and to align our actions with our values and goals.
  • Empathy: Intentional daydreaming can foster our empathy and compassion, as it helps us to imagine and understand the perspectives and feelings of others, and to respond to them more appropriately and kindly.

How does intentional daydreaming relate to mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of awareness and attention that is present, non-judgmental, and curious. It involves observing and accepting our thoughts, emotions, sensations, and experiences as they are, without trying to change or avoid them. Mindfulness can be cultivated through various practices, such as meditation, breathing, yoga, and mindful eating.

Intentional daydreaming and mindfulness may seem to be opposite states of mind, as the former involves engaging with our imagination, while the latter involves disengaging from it. However, the article suggests that they can be complementary and synergistic, as they both can enhance our well-being and performance in different ways. Some of the possible connections between intentional daydreaming and mindfulness are:

  • Balance: Intentional daydreaming and mindfulness can help us to achieve a balance between exploration and exploitation, or between divergent and convergent thinking. Exploration and divergent thinking involve generating and expanding on multiple ideas and options, while exploitation and convergent thinking involve selecting and refining on the best idea or option. Intentional daydreaming can facilitate exploration and divergent thinking, while mindfulness can facilitate exploitation and convergent thinking.
  • Integration: Intentional daydreaming and mindfulness can help us to integrate different aspects of our self, such as our past, present, and future selves, and our personal, social, and professional selves. Intentional daydreaming can help us to envision and plan for our future selves, and to connect with our personal and social selves, while mindfulness can help us to appreciate and accept our present selves, and to align with our professional and ethical selves.
  • Flexibility: Intentional daydreaming and mindfulness can help us to develop cognitive and emotional flexibility, which is the ability to adapt and cope with changing and challenging situations. Intentional daydreaming can help us to generate alternative and creative solutions, and to regulate our emotions more effectively, while mindfulness can help us to reduce our cognitive biases and emotional reactivity, and to increase our openness and curiosity.

How this relates to imaginative meditation practices

The summary part of this article was generated for me by the Bing chatbot to save me time in getting the core information to you, but what this all raises for me is how this relates to imaginative meditation practices and people with ADHD. The latter is an area that I will have to investigate for myself before I comment on it, and I hope someone will do some research on it at some point.

As far as imaginative meditation goes (for example the visualisation practices of Tibetan Buddhism/ Vajrayana and my own non-religious imaginative meditation derived from that tradition), that kind of meditation practice is undoubtably a kind of intentional daydreaming. And it’s clear from this research that regardless of how you interpret the practices metaphysically, the very act of doing this ritualised kind of daydreaming is good for your mental health. I mean, let’s face it, I start my day by visualising a beautiful loving being and filling myself with their light. That’s got to be a dopamine hit, right? It certainly sets me off in a positive mindset.

I expect that any kind of fantastically affirming imagery – as seen on my Meditations page – used as the focus of one’s meditation is in a similar category in that it’s very relaxing and inspirational for the mind.

As these pages indicate, I’ve done a great deal of intentional daydreaming during my life, starting at a very young age where it was an escape from ordinary (boring) reality and also served as a way to keep my sense of self strong in an environment where many of my characteristics were actively suppressed. So I find this kind of research very affirming.

Conclusion

Intentional daydreaming is a valuable and beneficial mental activity that can enhance our cognitive, emotional, and social well-being. It can also complement and synergize with mindfulness, as they both can help us to achieve balance, integration, and flexibility in our lives. Therefore, we should not dismiss or suppress our daydreams, but rather embrace and cultivate them intentionally and positively.

Do you engage in intentional daydreaming? What kind of effect does it have on you?


References

  • Davis, J. (2017). The science of the daydreaming paradox for innovation. Psychology Today. Retrieved on 16 Jan, 2019, from: Website
  • Gholipour, B. (2016). The right kind of daydreaming. Huffington Post. Retrieved on 15 January, 2019, from: Website
  • Nauert, R. (2018). What happens when daydreaming is intentional? Psych Central. Retrieved on 15 January, 2019, from: Website
  • Pillay, S. (2017). The unlikely benefits of distraction. Duke Corporate Education. Retrieved on 15 January, 2019, from: Website
"Honesty is the best policy." - Benjamin Franklin
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