why daydreaming is good for the soul

why daydreaming is good for the soul

each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. we need hours of aimless wandering or spates of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetop

Maya Angelou

I read this interesting article on Nautilus yesterday: “What Boredom does to you: the science of the wandering mind”.  It reinforced what I already knew to be true – when our minds are seemingly idle, they are in fact the most productive.

Instead of filling those empty spaces in our day with checking our email and incoming texts, we should be letting our mind wander, engaging it in constructive daydreaming.

Daydreaming, according to Nautilus, is our way to make sense of the more complicated aspects of life. We replay social interactions in a more nuanced way; we put ideas and events into perspective.

This is especially apparent to me when I swim. When I first started morning swims at the McGill gym, I found the laps to be quite boring. At least, when running outside, there’s the changing colour of the leaves, the open storefronts and all the smells that come with a city waking up on a fall morning. Even on a treadmill, there’s that TV hanging from the ceiling, or your phone where you can scroll through an Instagram feed.

In a pool, it’s just you and the water. The only sounds you hear are flutterkick splashes when above water, the bubbles of exhaled breath when you’re under.

Swim through the water listening to your breath, touch the wall, turn around, swim through the same water listening to the same breath.


But, in a day that demands my full attention most of the time, I’ve come to treasure the dead time when I’m not required to think.

I now gladly slide into the cool of the water; it’s my retreat where no one can reach me.

My body slips into default mode and my mind is free to ponder whatever it chooses.

Jonathan Fields from “The Good Life Project” proposes this:

while the world is going digital, we are re-discovering what it is to make and create because we were made to experience life in a tactile manner

I ponder this as I watch milk whey drip through the cheesecloth, the curds settling into homemade ricotta cheese.

As I massage salt into napa cabbage as my Korean friend teaches me how to ferment them to make kimchi.

As I press my coconut flour crust into a baking tin for a kale, red pepper quiche I’m preparing for the oven.

As I knit and purl stitches of bulky red yarn into the front piece of my sweater.

As I re-engage with the practices of old.

In an age when food is microwaved fast, there is something in us that hungers to ferment slow.

We want to engage with our world with all of our senses, not just by swiping on plastic screens.

We want to think deep, ponder long. We want to return to some sort of natural state of being, our original call: to cultivate.

So, I was looking into this concept of living slow, senses engaged, mind wandering, open to the world. And I came across this word: hygge [pronounced ‘hoo ga’].

Apparently, it took the world by storm last year. I was unaware and just discovered it this past week. A Danish term, it became popular as people started to model their lives after the Scandinavians who have the highest reported levels of happiness in the world.

It’s about creating cosiness, sanctuary in the midst of real life. Taking pleasure in the gentle and soothing things, like soft cashmere socks and a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

I like the word. It reminds me of the conclusion drawn in Ecclesiastes 8:15: eat, drink, be merry and enjoy the work of our hands.

So, in the midst of a world that threatens to pull on my mind in a thousand different directions at once, I choose to focus the few things for today, the one thing at hand.

I choose to enjoy the work I create.

To leave empty space in my schedule for the voice of God, and for the daydreaming that is good for my soul.




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