A recent study following 25,000 university students and staff over 3 years discovered that human beings, on average, spend 42% of their days in the world of day dreams.

Unlike any other creature on Earth, as far as we know, humans are the only ones to let their minds wander far and wide whilst wide awake.

The study, done in the US, does not pass judgement on the habit, but follow up research by psychologists has unearthed an interesting amount of knowledge about where we would rather be, when we are somewhere we have to be.

Day dreaming, unlike night time dreaming, is a cognoscente choice. When we dream when we are asleep, we rarely control the pathways our mind wanders down. People who DO have awareness whilst inside their REM (Rapid Eye Movement, or deep sleep) phase are taking part in something called ‘cognoscente dreaming’.

This ability is not all that common. People who are aware that they are dreaming WHILE they are dreaming can change the ‘scene’ or the particulars of a dream that they don’t like. They can add elements to dreams whilst they are taking place in ‘real time’.

There are books that teach this kind of conscience unconsciousness, and certain forms of meditation can assist in this interesting phenomenon.

Just as scientists and doctors have only a limited amount of understanding the rules and regulations of night-time dreaming, they are often at a loss as to understand why we dream at all.

More than a century of study has taught us that without this daily processing, our mind becomes stressed and tired. Dreaming takes place when we are most relaxed, so without this phase, we may not be sleeping well. Also, dreams often offer insights into the inner workings of our thought process.

Day dreaming is far more obvious.

When we daydream we are awake, so we choose what we want to think about. Some people use daydreams to imagine themselves in a better situation than they find themselves in ‘real life’. Day dreamers may imagine conversations they want to have, or people they would like to be with. They might aggrandize themselves, or seek revenge on those who have hurt them. Day dreaming might involve sexual encounters, or remarkable wealth, weight loss or travel. We might day dream entire fantasy worlds, perfect lifestyles, different partners, perfect families, perfect lives.

When we daydream, we might be heroes, or beauty queens. We might have answers or unlimited knowledge and power.

So, there is nothing wrong with day dreaming right?

Well, no. Not always. In truth, day dreaming is when we switch off from where we are, and mentally take ourselves somewhere else.

When you day dream, your body might still be in the room, but your mind and spirit have left the building.

Psychologists have discovered a direct correlation between day dreaming and depression.

People who feel low and down will fantasise about anything that isn’t where they are right now. They are non-present. They have taken the energy they could spend being in the moment, and are using it to fuel a storyline that doesn’t exist and isn’t real.

This non-presence is a sign that everything is not well.

Being mindful and aware means being present in the moment. This is difficult to do if you are imagining the perfect kiss with the perfect partner. That is why people who are unhappy switch off. Their real world is not as nice, better to go for a visit to that better place where everything you do and say is cool and widely respected.

Psychologists see day dreaming as a double edged sword.

Yes, it’s nice to pretend that things are amazing, and creative visualization is all about imagining something good and aiming towards it, but spend too much time in the non-present and two things will happen.

Firstly, real life will seem very dull and difficult by comparison. That perfect kiss with the perfect partner is not nearly as perfect if you’ve just had garlic mussels for lunch, or someone has farted. The kiss is probably still OK, it just has a few lumps that come with it…..just like real life does.

Secondly, spending too much time away from reality means your ability to work WITHIN reality becomes less refined. There are millions of examples of people whose fantasy lives (perhaps online in a shared game room) may seem full of promise, but whose ability to talk to a real human in a real room is very weak indeed.

Both of these scenarios are sad and limiting.

Real life, the other 58% of the world we all live in, requires work. And work is hard.

In the same study conducted in the United States, researchers noted that human beings favourite ‘real-time’ activities involved interacting with family and friends, being active at some kind of sport, and making love.

Sitting alone with a computer and being at work came out as the least popular. This is also when a majority of participants found themselves day dreaming.

Being present is important. Spending nearly half of your life imagining what could be (or what might never realistically be but is fun to think about) is really just a waste of time.

When you are here in the room mentally as well as physically, you are observing and learning, sharing and caring, participating and being present.

When you day dream, you are not here.

Unless you are one of the lucky few who can turn your day dreams into lucrative book and film deals, it may be worth thinking about how much time you spend imagining your life and how much time you spend living it.



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