Daydreaming…mindfulness or just plain lazy???

I’ve had some wonderful, well deserved time off. It was wonderful to not have an agenda everyday, to follow my nose that led me to a variety of experiences including time to daydream.  To my amazement, I read an article yesterday via Scientific Daily that said daydreaming can actually be beneficial.

The article was published in the July issue of Perspective on Psychological Science. Immordino-Yang studied what it means when our brains are at rest.

“In recent years, researchers have explored the idea of rest by looking at the so-called ‘default mode’ network of the brain, a network that is noticeably active when we are resting and focused inward. Findings from these studies suggest that individual differences in brain activity during rest are correlated with components of socioemotional functioning, such as self-awareness and moral judgment, as well as different aspects of learning and memory. Immordino-Yang and her colleagues believe that research on the brain at rest can yield important insights into the importance of reflection and quiet time for learning.”

“We focus on the outside world in education and don’t look much at inwardly focused reflective skills and attentions, but inward focus impacts the way we build memories, make meaning and transfer that learning into new contexts,” says Immordino-Yang, a professor of education, psychology and neuroscience at the University of Southern California. “What are we doing in schools to support kids turning inward?”

I know in myself if I spend all my time on what Yang calls outward attention, I can lose my bearings and my performance declines. Having time like I’ve experienced in the last couple of weeks reflecting and imagining has certainly cleared my thinking, reduced my pace and prepped me to embark on the outward attention that my work will require when I go back on Monday. I can’t help but think of how this research could be put to use in the classroom and beyond. The article addresses that the idea of idle time is not detrimental, but rather essential for students to internalize their learning, decrease stress and plan ahead.

Immordino-Yang also says:

“And mindful reflection is not just important in an academic context — it’s also essential to our ability to make meaning of the world around us. Inward attention is an important contributor to the development of moral thinking and reasoning and is linked with overall socioemotional well-being.”

She eludes todays technology based world does not promote introspection. I’m certainly with her on that…consider our work days… the emails, the reports and other demands via, phones, faxes or voicemails that demand our outward attention. I came home after vacation to over 1000 emails….aghghgh!

In summary  the last paragraph of the article was my favorite:

“According to the authors, perhaps the most important conclusion to be drawn from research on the brain at rest is the fact that all rest is not idleness. While some might be inclined to view rest as a wasted opportunity for productivity, the authors suggest that constructive internal reflection is critical for learning from past experiences and appreciating their value for future choices, allowing us to understand and manage ourselves in the social world.”

So if you feel refreshed from a vacation, that idleness, change of pace or getaway has helped you cope with the social world and how to manage the demands your work has on you.

So educators, lets not get rid of vacations, recess, or expect 100% activity and attention throughout a day in a classroom.