a celebration of spring: 13 ways to enjoy the weather
book review: lessons on love

daydreaming: the do's and don'ts

daydreaming
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"Everything starts as someone's daydream."

Larry Niven

 

I recently received a request from a reader asking that I write a post about how to stop daydreaming. When I first read the email, I thought to myself, "Why would you want to stop daydreaming?!" As someone who is usually on the go, living a fairly fast-paced life, daydreaming seems like a luxury, something I'd love to have more time to do. But, as I thought about it some more, I realized that, as fun as daydreaming sounds, maybe it's not really all that productive. It's, of course, important to have dreams and goals and ideas, but it's a lot more important to put them into action. In addition, if you're spending all your time daydreaming, you're not really living in the present.

However, as much as I try to live in the present moment, I still cannot deny that daydreams are a beautiful and much-needed element of life. Some do not have them or have them rarely. Some do not make the time for them that they should. And others, maybe like the author of the email requesting this post, spend too much time daydreaming. While I love the idea of living a life of daydreaming, I know that's not realistic (or healthy... or present-focused...). Perhaps it is because I've been unhappy with some elements of my own life lately that I feel the quick impulse to state that daydreaming is wonderful and that there couldn't be anything negative about it. Though I would love to spend hours of my day daydreaming, I know that's just not the way to live in the moment and I know that, in many ways, daydreams can be a waste of actual days.

Daydreaming has it's upsides -- after all, just take a look at the quote above! -- but it also has it's downsides too. Like most things, daydreaming in moderation can be wonderful and useful. It's like a fine wine or a sweet treat. A little bit can be fantastic, but too much can be a disaster (or, at the very least a hangover or a stomach ache). You don't want to get drunk on your dreams and then have to deal with the hangover, do you? I certainly don't... which is why I've come up with a list of daydreaming do's and don'ts. I want to spend more time daydreaming (sometimes I don't let myself have enough time to just get lost in thought), but I don't want to overdo it. So here are the rules I'm going to follow. Hopefully they'll help you out as well!


Daydreaming Do's

  • Do limit yourself to a specific amount of time. It can be very easy to let your mind wander forever once you get into a daydreaming zone, but it really helps not to overdo it if you limit yourself to a specific amount of time. Also, pick the right time of day (like not during work or school) to let your mind wander.

  • Do let yourself really enjoy them. When you're allowing yourself to daydream, you must really allow yourself to be in the moment and focus on those dreams. It becomes wasteful and pointless if you are constantly being distracted. Think of it as a form of meditation and really allow yourself to be present in your daytime dreaming.

  • Do try to make them productive in reality. Just because they're dreams doesn't mean that they can't become reality. Think about what you like to day dream about and see how you can turn those dreams into reality. Wherever your mind wanders naturally is probably something that's important to you so find a way to make those dreams real.

  • Do listen and learn from them. Dreams -- day or night -- have a purpose. They are there to tell us about ourselves and our lives. It can be tempting to just become absorbed in them and then let them fade when we come back to reality, but it's very important to really listen to what your daydreams are telling you.


Daydreaming Dont's

  • Don't allow yourself to get carried away. It can be very easy if you're a daydreamer to get carried away into the fantasy-filled world of your dreams. Daydreaming is alluring and it's important to keep yourself focused on the fact that you must, at some point, come back to reality.

  • Don't let anyone tell you they're worthless.Day dreams might seem, at times, like they're pointless. What might seem like something abstract and unobtainable can actually turn into something meaningful and purpose-driven. Don't let anyone tell you your dreams aren't worth anything because they truly are priceless.

  • Don't forget that reality is where dreams come true. Dreams are the foundation of great things, but in order to make great things happen, you have to remember that reality is where your dreams can come true. Don't forget to bring your dreams back to reality and see how you can use them in your life.

  • Don't believe they are better than your life. Dreams can be temptresses at times, leading us to believe that what they have is something better than what we already possess. It's essential when daydreaming to keep in mind that these are your dreams and it's up to you to make them realities.


Daydreaming too much can have it's consequences, but so can not daydreaming enough. As with most things, it's best to strike a balance between living in the moment and letting your mind wander aimlessly for hours. Now, so you can do a little daydreaming about daydreams, I'll leave you with this poem, "Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes, which, as I was contemplating the topic of dreaming over the weekend, I found printed on the inside of a menu at a local DC restaurant, Busboys and Poets:


What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like and sore --
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over --
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Comments

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Love this post!

Style Revolution - Thank you! :) I appreciate the feedback!

I think it is helpful to separate out different kinds of "daydreaming." When daydreaming is about visioning, exploring creative possibilities, unearthing our desires, I think its great.
When imagining a fantasy becomes a substitute for living it, that doesn't serve us.
Interesting how our culture tends to put a negative spin on the word though, isn't it?

Wonderful post. I like the way you have mentioned the positives and negatives of daydreaming.
My favorite is "Don't forget that reality is where dreams come true."

Cheers,
Cheryl Paris

I love daydreaming. I have been known to it too much, or get too engrossed in it, but the consequences for doing that have never been as bad as when I didn't daydream. I can clearly remember shifting into my daydreams as a defense for a few panic attacks. It allows me to clear my mind enough to deal with the issues at hand. As long as you always 'come back' I think daydreaming is a healthy thing.

Tara - Great point about the different types of daydreaming. As I was writing this post, I was actually thinking about it and how there's a differences between goal-like dreams and dreams that are too fantasy-driven. Glad you brought this point up!

Cheryl - Thank you! There are definitely good and bad sides of daydreaming and I'm glad you enjoy my list of do's and don'ts here.

Liz - I believe it's better to dream a little too much than not to dream at all. After all, I really do think that the best ideas can come to us when we let our minds wander. I agree that if you always come back, daydreaming can be a very productive thing!

Absolutely love the Do's and Dont's especially this: Don't believe they are better than your life; and this: Don't forget that reality is where dreams come true.

Dani,

Very nice post. I think you covered the pros and cons of daydreaming just perfectly. Therefore, I don't have anything to add there.

But I REALLY wish I knew more about why this particular person wanted to stop daydreaming!

My first reaction was that it could be the creativity of this person trying to get out and express itself. If you are daydreaming too much, then you would think some life changes should be made. After all, you should be living what you are dreaming about.

I just hope the person ends up resolving everything in a manner where they will find the most happiness.

I love to daydream, I just wish I had more time to indulge in it! I think the things we daydream about can tell us a lot about what's happening our lives, or what's on our minds, at the time (I know that's true for my kids!). Sure, some daydreams are well suited to being turned into reality. But I also think other daydreams should stay as just that, a nice mental break from reality, a peaceful and relaxing way to spend some thinking time.
Sweet (day) dreams!
Topi

Belinda - Thank you! I'm so glad you liked this list. It can sometimes become easy to stay lost in daydreams and I'm glad you picked up on the points that bring the daydreaming back to reality.

Greg - Thanks! Like you, I'm also curious about why she wants to stop daydreaming. Either she needs to let herself indulge in or she needs to figure out why she's doing it so much. Hopefully these tips were helpful for her!

Topi - Excellent point you bring up about how some daydreams should stay as daydreams. I completely agree with that. Some can be turned into reality, but others really should just remain dreams.

Reality is where dreams come true is very well put!

I think what I enjoyed most about this post was how simple and straightforward it was, Dani. And, of course, the topic was so a propos, so fitting for those days when Spring is just arriving and we're all inclined to a bit of daydreaming and cloud-watching.

I've found that I do my best daydreaming in two different parts of my day: (1) in my early morning, just as I wake up, and am sitting at my desk with my cup of tea (this is when I journal my daydreams) and (2) at the gym on the treadmill where my mind is free to wander for at least 45 minutes or so. I do my best daydreaming there in fact, and then get totally psyched dreaming up ways to make some of them into a reality.

Thank you for this post. Is so lovely to be back and reading your words again.

one of the biggest problems i have with day dreaming at times i'll get carried away with it. But luckily i've been better at doing so.

J.D. - I'm glad you liked that part. It seems to be something that a lot of people really liked about this post.

Chania Girl - So happy to see you back again! :) It made my day to see your name in the comment section! It's wonderful that you do most of your daydreaming in a productive environment like the gym. It's a great way to use your mind while you're using your body. So glad to have you back here!

Josten - It can be hard sometimes not to get carried away, but it's great that you're getting better at reigning in the daydreaming.

I love it!

Daydreaming can be really powerful in that it allows us to freely imagine what our dream life is. If we take our day dreams seriously and take action upon them, oh man, it's amazing how wonderful our lives can change.

I like to think I'm a professional day-dreamer. I spend hours day dreaming, followed by hours molding my reality into them.

Great post!

Hey Dani!
It's indeed nice to daydream sometimes, I like to do it too! Sometimes I get carried away by them, but they are also a big inspiration to me. Sometimes I get awesome ideas just from daydreaming :)

Have an amazing weekend!
Diggy

Ben - Glad you loved the post! Daydreaming is definitely powerful and, until I received the email requesting this post, I didn't think too much about it. It's great to be able to daydream as much as you -- especially when you're able to follow up with action!

Diggy - Daydreams are definitely inspiring and can provide us with some great ideas. I hope you have a great weekend too!

Very interesting post! You don't stop and break down the act of daydreaming too often. I totally see your point with the Do's & don'ts that separate daydreaming from being a healthy activity, to being an unproductive time waster.

Chris - Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you liked the post. I never would have thought too much about this one if someone hadn't asked me to write about it, but I'm glad she did. It's interesting to think about daydreaming in this way!

Wow, Wonderful post! I loved it! I have been a daydreamer for a quite a long time. I can remember how when I was half-way through my high school, I used to go to one my favorite park sit beneath my favorite tree and dream about starting a business, and stuffs like becoming a billionaire. Ever since, I started experimenting with new business ideas only to fail each time, but there are at least two good things that happened because I dreamed. First, I learned a lot lot more than what I otherwise could have, and second, from those dreams have sprouted a life-goal, goal to become a successful entrepreneur. So I really feel blessed that I dreamed. And thanks again for this wonderful post!

Sumit - Thank you! I'm so glad you liked this post! :) It really is important to daydream, but it can be a negative thing if you over do it. It sounds like dreaming as done you a lot of good and I'm so glad you shared your experience with it here.

Great post and I loved the poem at the end!

You've put a wonderful perspective on daydreaming. I catch myself when I'm daydream and try to come back to reality. The world makes us feel that daydreaming is not productive.

But it's the mindset that we have when it comes to daydreaming. Yes they do serve their purpose and they do mean something to us. Thanks for such great information!

Jarrod - Thank you! I really appreciate your enthusiastic comments! I agree that the world makes us feel as if daydreaming is not productive when, in fact, it can turn out to be one of the most productive things we do. Glad you liked the post!

i daydream too much and like i day dream about the future and how i want it to be but when i try it always happens the exact opposite way i just wanna know why

Arthur - I always think that things happen the way they are meant to so, even if your dreams aren't unfolding the way you thought they might, everything is happening the way it should.

personally i would like to get rid of all daydreaming. i do get a lot done but it seems like every time i go from point A to B i am mentally somewhere else. i would very much like to stop daydreaming and be more observant of whats around me. it is very annoying to be doing home work only to realize i just spent 10 minutes imagining about something completely irrelevant and useless.

Bob - Daydreaming is a tricky thing. While it does have some benefits (such as coming up with new ideas), it can also make it hard to be productive sometimes. Keep in mind that it's all about balance -- a little bit of daydreaming can be a good thing, but it's much better in moderation.

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