Terry’s Take… Daydreaming

When I was in Grade Two, my teacher noted on my report card: “Terry seems to daydream in class.”  The report card came in a sealed envelope that we were asked to leave unopened until we gave it to our parents. Of course, none of us did. I remember reading my teacher’s comment on the bus ride home from school. I felt embarrassed and quickly slipped the card back into the envelope so it couldn’t be seen by another classmate. I don’t recall what I did next, but most likely stared out the bus window… perhaps day dreaming a bit thinking about my mom’s reaction.

For years, daydreaming has been thought of as a social detriment—not as an attribute. My parents would tell me to “focus more” and “pay attention to the teacher” as the remedy to my malady.

Last week I picked up a book in Montreal entitled: “Stolen Focus.” It highlights our increasing inability to focus. Studies show that the average student today can only focus on one particular task for 65 seconds. The average office worker averages only three minutes. The reasons are many…but social media, constantly checking our cell phones, and our obsession with faster internet speed and rapid images has turned us into a “TikTok” culture where we scroll through life from one thing to another in quick succession.

So…I was happy to learn that daydreaming is really a good thing! Professor Nathan Spreng of McGill University has studied this in depth. Apparently three crucial things are happening during daydreaming:

First, you are slowly making sense of the world.

Secondly, when your mind wanders it starts to make new connections between things—which often produces solutions to your problems. How many times have you focused so intensely on a problem…only to find the solution when you are not focusing on it?

Thirdly, daydreaming will engage in a sort of “mental time travel” where it roams over the past and tries to predict the future. Freed from the pressures of thinking narrowly about what’s right in front of you…your mind will think about what may come next…and so it will help you prepare for it.

So… how does this relate to our life as a faithful follower of Jesus?

As I thought more about this (well…as I daydreamed more about this) I saw a direct correlation to prayer.

In the past, I have tried to sit quietly to focus on God…but my mind would wander. Some folks I know do a daily “holy hour” where they sit and contemplate God in silence.

I’ve tried this many times…but at about 5 minutes in… my mind would wander. I would chastise myself thinking I must be sub-human not to be able to focus solely on God for an hour.

Now science says my mind wandering is actually valuable!

 Brain scans of people daydreaming show that a great deal is going on in the brain during times we used to think were “wasted.” These brain scans show neural activity in pathways that open up our creativity, allowing us new perspectives on life. When we daydream, we tap into a reservoir of thought that is even deeper than when we focus intensely on a subject.

So…if your mind wanders during prayer…perhaps it’s a good thing that God is using to enable you to find solutions, rely upon Him more, and to enjoy the creativity of God’s creation.

It’s ok to let your mind wander a bit during prayer …because God can use all kinds of means to bring us closer to Him!

Now I don’t feel so badly about my Grade Two report card.