When you were a teenager, what did you daydream about? In High School, I wanted to be a rock star. I took voice lessons, studied piano and wrote song lyrics. It was the era of Debbie Gibson and there was nothing more fun than dressing in neon and belting out the words to the latest hit song.
Needless to say, after my first week in college as a voice major, I realized I had better look for a new area of study if I wanted to actually graduate. So, I changed to Psychology and the rest is history.
When we’re young, our minds easily create a rich fantasy life. Go back in time for a moment. Remember daydreaming about being a pro ball player, famous musician, or the love interest of the hottest Hollywood heartthrob? We doodled on our notebooks, hung glossy posters on our walls and gave ourselves fun nicknames to bring our fantasies into reality (I wasn’t the only teenage Jersey girl who scribbled “Mrs. Bon Jovi” on her textbook covers).
As we get older, we focus more on reality and less on daydreams. In college, we study science, history and logic, and realize that we have a better shot at a date with our Chemistry lab partner rather than with someone from Melrose Place. The endless possibilities we believed in as teens begin to narrow as we make life decisions, and so do our daydreams.
While I’m a big fan of reality and pursuing goals and professional aspirations, there is something to be said for the brief escapes that our (improbable) daydreams can offer. While our rational mind knows the implausibility of many of our fantasies, there is no need to write them off as silly or unproductive. As long as we’re able to maintain perspective, spending a few minutes imagining a perfect moment or inventing a fun scenario in our minds can be a form of mediation that boosts our mood, relieves anxiety, and allows us to relax. It can give us renewed energy, a creative burst and a mini-mental break.
So, next time your mind starts to wander when your favorite song comes on the radio, forget about the traffic jam and guiltlessly enjoy the benefits of the brief reality escape. Like an engaging movie, these simple distractions can give us a much needed stress break and are available to us at any time.
Although I have no regrets with my career choice, you’ll still occasionally find me pretending I’m on stage while on my elliptical in the morning. It makes me smile and encourages me to work out for a longer amount of time, which is a great start to the day. Then, it’s back to reality, which all of a sudden also seems a little bit better.