Saturday, March 5, 2016

The value of Daydreaming

"Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night."  Edgar Allen Poe

When's the last time you daydreamed?  I don't necessarily mean the kind where you lay on your back for hours on a balmy summer day staring up at the clouds as they drift by, though that is a lovely idea. I mean the kind of daydreaming where you simply take a quick mental break from what you're doing to stare out a window and let your mind go or close your eyes for five minutes midday and just take in the sounds rather than the sights.

I recently read an article on how busy Americans are, particularly dual working couples with kids. And the adults, as we know, aren't the only ones burning the candle at both ends.  Being bored, for example, isn't something we often hear about from children these days and that's a bad thing.  We are having to actively teach kids how to slow down, destress, observe, and handle manage unstructured time.

Building in space to your child's schedule for downtime, where things like doodling, resting, and daydreaming can happen, is important.  It's important not just because it restores and rejuvenates the mind so that more can be done when returning to tasks, but because without this valuable 'time out' from the world, skills like creativity, self-awareness, and centeredness can not happen.

Psychologists and neuroscientists have redeemed daydreaming as an essential cognitive tool.  (The Virtues of Daydreaming by Jonah Lehrer, New Yorker, June 2012) It turns out that when we're bored, we begin exploring our own associations and contemplating ideas and fictitious scenarios that only exist within the head, which is where many great epiphanies come from.

Another Head of School and I recently exchanged meditation apps, which made me realize I was only fitting in downtime by finding a structured guide by which to do so.  Now, I didn't have that thought until I was thirty minutes into a silent, meditative nature walk last weekend.  That's what silence, solitude, nature, quiet, and time with ourselves does - it brings new ideas and realizations.  So, I'm making time in my life for daydreaming, unstructured and indulgent space to just let the thoughts float to the surface, imagine possibilities, and appreciate the sky above me and the sounds around me.  I hope you will too.  After all, the easiest way to get children to adapt habits is to model these for them.  Dream on!