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A Wandering Mind Can Be a Good Sign

Heal
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Daydreaming can mean you are very creative and intellectual. So there.

“Hmm, what? My brain is just so darn efficient!” Would that excuse fly at your workplace? Maybe not, but new research out of the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that daydreaming is a sign of a creative mind.

As the study’s co-author, Georgia Tech associate psychology professor Eric Schumacher, wrote, “People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering.”

In the study, 100 people had MRIs done of their brains to examine brain patterns. They were asked to focus on a fixed point for five minutes, which established a baseline for how their brains were operating in an awake, resting state. Then the team gave the participants tests that measured their intellectual and creative ability, and a questionnaire on how much their mind wandered in daily life. The results showed that people who reported daydreaming more often scored higher on intellectual ability and also had shown more efficient brain systems as measured in the MRI machine.

“People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad. You try to pay attention and you can’t,” wrote Schumacher. “Our data are consistent with the idea that this isn’t always true. Some people have more efficient brains.”

If you are a frequent daydreamer, your brain may simply have more capacity to think, and can tune out if you are performing an easy task. How can you tell? Are you seemingly oblivious, yet then able to focus back in without having missed important information? You probably have an efficient brain. Were you a child who picked up new lessons easily, then zoned out while the rest of the class caught up? Efficient brain.

The researchers say their study invites more questioning on understanding how intent may alter mind wandering—that is, how much we can stay focused on a task if we choose to—as well as instances when mind wandering can become problematic. Until then, I say, this is a great excuse to have at the ready!


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Spirituality & Health’s Wellbeing Editor, Kathryn Drury Wagner, is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 


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