Examples and types of mind wandering, the symptoms, benefits and potential treatments.
Up to half of our daily thoughts involve mind wandering.
Unfortunately, when left to its own devices the mind almost always wanders to negative thoughts and brings us down.
Mind wandering in general is often associated with increased stress and a lack of academic success.
But daydreaming can be seen as a sign of being more creative and having higher intelligence, research finds.
Those who report more daydreaming have higher intellectual abilities and their brains work more efficiently.
Here are more examples of mind wandering from the research, including symptoms, benefits and potential treatments.
1. Memory benefits
Part of the function of mind wandering is to allow the brain to work on our memories, research suggests.
Mind wandering — which may make up 50 percent of our daily thinking time — is experienced as a kind of zoning out from what is going on around us.
During this time, researchers have found, many areas of the brain quiet themselves to focus on output from the hippocampus.
The output from the hippocampus is very weak, which the researchers charmingly describe as whispering.
So, the rest of the brain has to be particularly quiet to listen and further encode these memories for long-term storage.
2. Types of mind wandering
There are two types of mind wandering — each with a different experience.
Mind wandering tends to be seen in a negative way, but zoning out on purpose can help creative thinking and problems solving.
Research has identified a vital difference between intentional and unintentional mind wandering.
It reveals how intentional mind wandering feels different from accidental mind wandering.
The study’s authors explain:
“We suspect that when people are completing an easy task, they may be inclined to deliberately disengage from the task and engage in mind wandering.
This might be the case because easy tasks tend to be rather boring, or because people realize that they can get away with mind wandering without sacrificing performance.
Conversely, when completing a difficult task, people really need to focus on the task in order to perform well, so if they do mind-wander, their mind wandering should be more likely to occur unintentionally.”
3. Intentional mind wandering example
Some types of mind wandering may be highly beneficial to our brains, and our futures.
Intentional daydreaming is linked to a thicker cortex (a good thing) in certain key areas of the brain, research finds.
Directing the mind to wander is a cognitive skill that can be beneficial in some contexts.
For example, it can allow us to mentally rehearse upcoming events, or solve problems we might encounter.
In other words, it allows the brain to work out possible futures for us.
So, mind wandering is not always a failure of self-control that is inevitably linked to mistakes.
The key is whether it is intentional or not.
4. Creative mind wandering example
The incubation effect: this is simply that taking a break from a problem often brings an insight later on.
We know it from experience and psychological research has proven it.
About 50 different studies have been carried out on the incubation…
Keep reading here