As a student, I have always struggled with staying focused while attending a lecture, reading a lengthy article, or when completing work. I am constantly distracted by random thoughts and day dream quite frequently. I have always blamed this issue on myself for lacking self discipline to stay focused. However this article discusses many facts about day dreaming, and why it is sometimes beneficial and out also out of our control.
Of the facts explained in the article, one that stuck out was that day dreaming can actually be intentional. When people are leisurely working and do not find the task at hand to be difficult, we are putting less stress on the brain to focus for a long period of time, allowing our minds to wander. Researchers think we intentionally let our minds wander during these times because the consequences are much less severe for not paying attention, so we are not as worried about trying to remain focused.
This may hold true in some situations, but there are also times when I definitely needed to pay better attention during a task. But, another cause to day dreaming is actually linked to problem solving. When people are stuck on a problem and are too overwhelmed with information, it is also common for our minds to wander to help clear our heads, so we can return to the problem with a more relaxed mindset.
When daydreaming our brains are actually experiencing more brain activity than when focused on a specific task or routine. This is partly explains why day dreaming for a few minutes can turn into much longer than intended. But, it is important not to remain focused all the time and to let your mind wander. It is a natural part of the brain and can stimulate brain activity, task performance, and even a better focus. So, the next time you regret day dreaming during a class instead of paying attention, you still experienced some type of benefits.