The power of spending more time daydreaming

Photo by Edurne Tx on Unsplash

I’ve spent more time lounging around in bed this week than I have done in months. And honestly, it’s been pretty great.

This experience has been in stark contrast to my recent months. My summer was meant to be a period of downtime. Yet I found it really challenging to really relax. It was as if there was an angst to go out and spend time with the world. Which then meant I was getting tired again.

The issue was my discomfort with being alone. It wasn’t quite an existential self-loathing, but I felt bored quickly. And after a while of feeling bored, I found myself searching for stimulation, which was usually outside the house. And so the cycle continued. I felt conflicted. I wanted to rest, but would find myself feeling worse when I gave myself time to rest. Whilst in the past this was because I might have been blocking out emotions that were rising to the surfaces, this time it was more about not actually enjoying the time alone.

I tried certain things like meditation. And they were beneficial for sure, particularly when I got into a state of unease. But what I found was that after I did the meditation, the boredom would return. Then the other unpleasant feelings would follow.

Last weekend I was ill. Even by my own standards, I was not letting my body rest. I got to the point where taking a walk to the shops felt like a physically exhausting endeavour. By Sunday I ended up having three naps. I took a day off sick on Monday too.

I took this as an opportunity to return to creature comforts. Nostalgic trips of playing old video games help – I re-completed the OG Pokemon and have been replaying Metal Gear Solid. Playing these games brought back a wave of positive feelings and emotional connection. It felt nice.I think I lost sight of the benefits of having comfort and safety.

Our so-called ‘comfort zones’ are often used in the sense of things that we have to break out of to grow. There is certainly an element of truth in that – if we are too comfortable we can stagnate. But I forgot that there is a reason why having a comfort zone is good too. It’s nice to feel calm and safe somewhere. This psychological safety is what brings us back to a place of homeostasis.

This weekend I’ve been spending more time daydreaming. The only plans I had this weekend got cancelled, so I can instead just relax and let my mind wander and think about nice things. I forgot how nice and relaxing it can be. It’s something I used to do a lot when I was younger, so it feels very familiar and comforting.

I think I lost this art because as the responsibilities grow, I would get caught up in a negative thought, which would then spiral. For example, It can be easy to let a thought about work turn into a stressful creation of planning what I need to do for the week ahead. I then started equating day dreaming to unhappy thoughts, so I stopped doing it.

But I’ve learnt to notice these thought patterns. Rather than trying to ‘outthink’ negative thinking (which does not work!), I just instead return to a nicer thought. Reliving a nice memory. An event, or the company of someone I enjoyed. It doesn’t take long until I’ve completely forgot about the negative thought.It’s a little funny to think about it, because I know a few years ago I would spend hours in the evening trying to think my way out of my negative thinking. But this just made the problem worse, which would lead to worse sleep and an even more negative cycle. If only I had known then what I know now!

When I returned to the positive train of thought, this then kicked off a creative process of what I wanted to do. When I thought of someone I hadn’t spoken to, I wandered how they were. It reminded me that I hadn’t spoke to them in a while so I could drop them a message saying I was thinking of them.

It feels nice for me to reconnect with them, and I also know that there’s few things more pleasant than receiving a message from someone you haven’t heard from in a while simply because they were thinking of you.

I also found myself thinking about what I might want to do. My brain started engaging in some travel plans for next year. I started looking up some initial ideas and asking for some advice. It was nice to think about what possibilities I could have. The planning felt fun and exciting, which was so starkly different compared to the recent travel I had done where it felt more like a chore.

Not only am I now enjoying my time alone, it also doesn’t need to feel like a serious thing I have to do. This isn’t a ‘need’ to go meditate or do yoga to feel better. I can just come to a relaxed space when I want. It no longer feels like another item on the ‘to-do’ list.

It also means that having a free weekend isn’t a daunting a prospect as it has been recently. If I have nothing to do this weekend, then I’ll just enjoy time with myself. I also know that this will mean I’m far more present when I am actually with people because I’ve properly rested too. I also have more space for spontaneous chats or just hanging out without a plan.

It may sound a little silly, but taking time out to day dream about nice things could be the missing piece to your mental wellbeing.

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