Mindfulness, presence, flow states, and meditation are all popular concepts right now.
In an age where we are constantly stressed, constantly distracted, and always being pulled from one thing to another, the idea of calming the mind and being able to rise above the constant chatter is very appealing.
But while this is true, it’s also important not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Being ‘present’ is great because it allows you to react more quickly, to enjoy the moment, and to let go of stresses, fears, and the infamous ‘inner critic’.
On the other hand though, there is a value to that ‘inner voice’ and to being distracted momentarily, and it’s important that we don’t forget this.
Why It’s Good to Daydream
The key point here is that while mindfulness and presence are good, they shouldn’t be sought after as the only valuable brain state. In other words, we should also value the benefit that can come from simply letting the mind wander and from daydreaming about things.
Whereas mindfulness and flow states are synonymous with ‘hypo-prefrontality’ (meaning that the front portion of the brain has shut down), daydreaming is achieved when we engage our ‘default mode network’.
The Default Mode Network of Your Brain
This is a series of interconnected brain areas including the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate cortex, and the parietal cortex among others.
Together, these brain areas allow your mind to wander through memories and ideas while you’re are busy doing monotonous tasks. This is why you’ll often find yourself daydreaming when walking, when washing the dishes or when doing a host of other repetitive and mundane things.
Albert Einstein and You
It’s this brain state that Albert Einstein credited with his discovery of the special theory of relativity. He attributed his ‘dull’ job at the patent office with allowing his mind to wander so that he might uncover ideas that would change the world forever.
Many other geniuses, creatives, and other key influential figures also describe similar processes leading to their breakthroughs and discoveries.
This is also when you’re most likely to solve problems facing you in your daily life, or just to imagine some wish-fulfilling scenario in which you’re performing in a rock band.
And guess what? During all these experiences, you couldn’t be further from presence or mindfulness.
So the moral of this story is that the “default mode network” is another brain state worth focusing on and that your ‘inner critic’ isn’t all bad.