Let Your Mind Wander for a Healthier Brain

Let Your Mind Wander for a Healthier Brain

You might think of daydreaming as a slacker habit, but it turns out that it's good for your brain. So let your mind wander a little bit today.

Zoning out doesn't mean your mind is on vacation. Just the opposite. Research involving brain scans showed that when people daydream, the brain actually works harder, and in different ways.

Stop paying attention
A study compared brain activity during two different conditions -- when people played an easy game and when their minds simply wandered freely. And daydreaming lit up the brain areas that researchers expected it to, such as those areas that handle routine daily activities. But, surprisingly, the activity of daydreaming also activated the lateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex -- the so-called executive network of the brain, where complex problem-solving happens. Which led researchers to conclude that giving your brain a break allows these higher-function areas to work on the weighty questions humming in the background of your thoughts. You know, those big things, like how to solve a problem at work, resolve an argument with your spouse, or start a new business venture.

Make it a habit
The researchers suggest people encourage daily daydreaming with simple, mindless activities. Washing the dishes, knitting, doing jigsaw puzzles, or weeding the garden are all good choices. And while you're at it, try these other tips for putting your brain in a younger and healthier frame of mind:

Did you know? Plastic is where it's at when it comes to healthy brains. Discover why plasticity is so important to your cranium.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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