Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Do You DD?

I bet you do.

It's natural.

It feels right.

It's sooooo easy for it to become the kind of habit that you don't even think about anymore.

Maybe you're home alone right now and you're thinking, "What the heck? Why shouldn't I?"

Maybe you're at work and you're sure no one can tell what's going on there as you sit behind your desk or talk on the phone or smile and nod.

Maybe you even do it when you're with your spouse or lover because you believe he or she is simply too stupid to notice.

I myself do it all the time.

I have for many years.

It's called daydreaming.

And according to a recent study involving more than 2200 people, it's common for the waking mind to wander this way nearly 50% of the time.

If that study is to be believed (and many experts seem to think that it should be), even the minds of those engaged in "demanding" tasks wander some 30% of the time.

I bet your mind is wandering right now, isn't it?

Well, go on - let it. These words here don't mind. They're just words. They'll be here when and if your mind ever decides to come back.

But you should know this: According to the study, you'll probably be happier if you focus on what's in front of it.

In fact, those who let their minds wander while they're using a computer are apparently among those most likely to be unhappy.

The nature of the cause and effect relationship here (if any), is a tad murky, but....

It all made me reflect on my own DD habit.

And it made me realize that instead of concentrating on what I'm doing, I'm often reliving painful moments from the past, or imagining all the bad things that might happen in the future, or wondering what alternative presents I might be living in now had I only gotten up an hour earlier, or had a few dollars more, or been born the hereditary ruler of a small principality.

That seems rather odd, doesn't it?

If we can chose to daydream about anything, why should we choose to daydream about things that bring us down rather than about those things that make us happy?

It's the same question I've long had about dreaming while we're asleep. The slumbering brain could provide us with an unending stream of fantasies perfectly tailored to our wants, needs, and desires. Instead, it often gives us nightmares about falling out of trees or being naked on a bus or falling naked out of a tree that's just been hit by a bus. Why?

I guess one answer is that if our slumbering brains made us as happy as sex or cocaine, we'd never want to wake up. And I bet species that never want to wake up are less likely to survive (even though the sloth and the koala seem to be doing ok).

But why would the alert mind choose to spend its precious DD time on worries?

Well, maybe worrying provides a survival advantage, too.

But is survival worth it if worry and unhappiness rather than satisfaction and happiness predominates?

Fortunately - or unfortunately, as the case may be - even worried, unhappy people seem to have an instinctive will to live that overwhelms all but the worst waves of misery.

Then again, maybe this study is simply wrong.

Maybe most DDers actually end up feeling better rather than worse after a good, long DD session.

What do you think?

Whatever the truth may be (for you, for me, for most people), my mind keeps being drawn back to a comment made by one of the researchers (Dr. Matthew Killingsworth): "This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present."

Spooky, eh?

Thank goodness I still have the ability to put all this out of my mind, walk out to my kitchen, and rekindle my ongoing relationship with a cherry pie that exists very much in the here and now.

Well, the there and soon, anyway.



  1. Hmmm, while I'd say my dreams at night DO tend to be more unhappy/scary/weird or at best nonsensically useless, I think my day dreams tend to be more positive for the most part. Unless I'm fooling myself? Anyway, I do agree with you about the survival advantage of worrying.

    Enjoy your cherry pie! :-)

  2. I've never really thought about it that much... sometimes a dd that too good will depress me because reality is so much different, but other times it inspires me to make positive changes in my life..

  3. Or maybe being happy helps people focus?
    Misery loves distraction.

  4. I LOVE cherry pie; even the bought, fried kind.

    Before retiring, if I'd DD'd on the job I'm sure I would've screwed up a whole bunch of stuff and gotten early retired.

    My DDs at home, before and after retirement, involve winning the Texas lottery and what I'd do with the winnings. Very pleasant pastime but frustrating when I don't even get one number out of six, over and over and over...

    Night dreams: Yes. They are usually nightmares but not of the horror kind. In the almost always lucid dreams, I'm not in control of my life - I've lost my keys or the location of my truck and I'm in a strange place - that kind of thing. And I wake myself up.