Is Daydreaming as Vital to Mind-health as Focusing on Facts?


“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a reason: The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited. This is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved,” writes Daniel Levitin, director of the Laboratory for Music, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in the New York Times Sunday Review. Levitin says that on a typical day we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986, and discusses the importance of being able to switch from our brain’s fact-absorbing mode to its daydreaming mode.

“This two-part attentional system is one of the crowning achievements of the human brain, and the focus it enables allowed us to harness fire, build the pyramids, discover penicillin and decode the entire human genome. Those projects required some plain old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness,” writes Levitin. “But the insight that led to them probably came from the daydreaming mode. This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable.”

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain (New York Times Sunday Review, August 9, 2014)


  1. Well, now that’s also going to be medicated away, like with “sluggish cognitive tempo” or whatever the newest disorder is going to be. Psychiatry is in the business of producing mindless drones.

    Report comment

  2. I know this is true, the unconscious mind works hand in hand with the conscious mind. When I was doing high end kitchen / bath design, I would give my clients options, listen to what they liked and disliked, then offer no solutions, but slept on it. I almost always came up with a design they loved.

    I think, only once, was I able to sell a finished concept, without first sleeping on it. And my boss was shocked I had sold $30,000 in goods, in the 20 minutes I was entertaining the client, while she was working on changes to her designs.

    I had the adverse effects of Wellbutrin withdrawal misdiagnosed as “bipolar,” within an hour.

    I was merely working to beautify homes, doctors hold a person’s entire well being and life in their hands. They’ve promised to “first and foremost, do no harm.” Perhaps, the medical community should rethink their flippant responses to patients’ concerns, and the wisdom of their ways?

    Report comment