Mind-wandering, sometimes referred to as “task unrelated thought,” is the experience of thoughts not remaining on a single topic for an extended period of time, especially when individuals are engaged in an attention-demanding project or task.
During normal, everyday activities our mind is wandering up to 30% of the time. As we drive, as we read a book or an article, and all kinds of activities where our vigilance may be low, we’re likely off wandering throughout our minds. During these situations, people often cannot recall what happened in the surrounding environment because they are preoccupied with their wandering thoughts.
But is mind-wandering actually bad for us?
It can be dangerous if left unchecked. But it’s not as bad as you might have originally thought.
According to Inc., mind-wandering is actually closely associated with creativity. Simply being aware of when and where your mind wanders can help you become more creative in the long run. Creativity is like a muscle and needs to be worked to become more powerful. By allowing your mind to wander and experiment, you’ll likely be much more creative throughout your personal life and professional career.
Meditation and yoga are two ways you can become more mindful of your daydreaming. In fact, yoga is the most practiced mind and body activity for 9.5% of U.S. adults.
According to a 2017 study by the Georgia Institute of Technology, occasional daydreaming is not only linked to creativity but intellect, as well. Researchers measured the brain patterns of more than 100 people and asked them to fill out a questionnaire about their mind-wandering habits.
Those who reported more bouts of mind-wandering scored higher on both creative and intellectual ability.
“People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad. You try to pay attention and you can’t,” said Eric Schumacher, a professor at Georgia Tech. “Our data are consistent with the idea that this isn’t always true. Some people have more efficient brains.
Mind-wandering, if left completely unchecked, can lead to productivity issues, sure. But allowing your mind to unfocused a bit before focusing back on the task in hand can leave you feeling rejuvenated, more creative, and improve your ability to think.