Is A Wandering Mind A Good Thing?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mind wandering is a phenomenon that happens so regularly that most people don't give too much a thought about it. When I was a teenager, if I ever had a glazed look on my face or if I stared too long at a distance without blinking and my mom caught me in the all-too-familiar daydreaming trance, she would break the spell by asking if I was still here on Earth.

See, people have that kind of need to break other people's daydreams because they think it's the same as being lazy and does not seem to fall under the category of a real hobby.

When I tell people that I'm writing about mind-wandering, they wonder and mind-wander for a bit before asking: is it a good thing? Some just mind-wander and changed the topic altogether.

Is it good to shower? Yes it is. Is it good to shower all the time 24/7 - I suppose it is, if you get paid for that kind service by the hour.

My point is, the idleness of the mind can't be judged in such a simplistic view. A teenager who spends his days being idle with a tendency to indulge in wild fantasies and turns up to be an evolving psychopath is marked by society as "bad" but it is not in the same level as "bad" as another who likes to daydream and turns out to be just another dull-witted human being whose life pose no threat to society.

I have no idea what my point was but I'm sure you got my drift, somewhere in my ramblings.

There is nothing wrong with mind-wandering, yet if you keep losing touch with what is in front of you and what's in your head, perhaps there's something to be seen there. But of itself, mind-wandering is a natural gift - a state where your brain goes when it is on default.

What I am trying to say is each one of us mind-wanders. Research has shown that even when people are specifically asked to pay attention on a specific task, they spend up at least half of their time NOT thinking about the task at hand! (Jonathan Schooler's research)

As long as the task is completed, it doesn't matter if your mind wandered half or most of the time. It's just what the mind does.

And whether mind-wandering benefits people or not, I believe it is a question of context. Thinkers of both Eastern and Western worlds tend to agree that being in the present and living in the moment right here, right now is how life can be best appreciated and lived to the maximum.

However, there are situations in life that would influence us to escape mentally while we are cornered physically. Through the wonderful ability of mind wandering we mentally divert our focus from say, an abusive/violent partner, mind-numbing repetitive work, the traffic jam or a boring movie, so that we don't go crazy.

And then, there's the common view that being idle is a waste of time - well, it can be. But to understand this phenomenon of being lost in a reverie in all of its depth, we have to set aside the ingrained idea for a while and open our minds.

In my next piece, I shall be writing about a condition that messes up the off-button of the wandering mind mode. Are you excited? I hope you are!

"All religions will pass, but this will remain: simply sitting in a chair and looking in the distance." -V.V. Rozanov.

Image Credit By Order Of Appearance
Henry Asencio at
Nico Niemi at

shanaz@RS | 11:37 PM | Labels:

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