Daydreaming is a habit that can seem harmless enough and can seem like it's perhaps even a good thing in some senses – the ability to drift off and to imagine a different scenario and a different world, the imagination to think up things that aren't in front of you and the opportunity to escape the mundane. It can be a great way to pass the time, a great way to find out more about yourself and a great way to be creative and to come up with ideas and plans and inventions.
Daydreaming is supposed to be an optional escape from reality that serves a purpose and that you can turn on and off, it's not supposed to encroach on reality and it's not supposed to distract you from what you are meant to be doing. In some cases daydreaming can be embarrassing or get you into trouble – when you start to drift off into a daydream when someone's talking to you, when you're in a meeting, or when you're in a class. In other cases it can prevent you from taking in the information you are meant to which can hamper your progress in relationships, academics and careers. In other situations it can actually be dangerous and if you are daydreaming when you are driving for instance then you will find yourself with slower reactions and more likely to have an accident.
So the aim then should be not to completely stop daydreaming, but to simply cut it down and get it under control so that it is an outlet and a hobby that you can use to pass the time or explore your own mind – not something that you have no control over or that you are getting into trouble for. Here are some suggestions as to how you can get your daydreaming back under control.
Get More Sleep
Studies have shown that if we don't get enough sleep, specifically of the REM kind (Rapid Eye Movement – which is the sleep where we dream), then this can start to encroach into our waking lives in the forms of hallucinations. At the very least it makes it easier for us to drift off deep into thought and imagination as in daydream. Find ways to not only improve the quantity of your sleep, but also the quality, by ensuring that you have a good environment in your room that is conducive to sleep, and by ensuring that you set aside enough time each day for resting. You can also try other methods, such as going running during the day to tire yourself out, and drinking less caffeine.
Likewise when you are meant to be more awake then find ways to keep yourself switched on and alert. You can do this by for instance keeping a window open so that the cool air will keep you feeling fresh – avoid warm cozy environments. Likewise try having some loud, up-tempo music, or try having a strong cup of coffee. All these things will keep you buzzing and hopefully prevent you from drifting away.
If you are fantasizing then this is a form of expression and a way for you to deal with emotions and feelings. If this is the case then you might simply need to take more time out for yourself in order to express those thoughts and feelings. So perhaps take up painting or creative writing and this has given you an avenue to channel that creativity so that it doesn't start creeping up on you in boring lectures and meetings.
Daydreaming is also often a sign of boredom – that you are not interested in what's going on around you and that you thus need more stimulation. You need to find ways then to engage yourself more with your surroundings and reality and you need to do this by trying to keep things interesting. Actively engage in what people are saying and think about how it affects you and what is interesting about it – if you are creative then even the driest piece of information can have an interesting slant. Failing that try counting things or giving yourself other mental challenges to keep you fixed on what's going on in the real world.
Wake Yourself Up
If you are daydreaming when you should be working then a simple solution is to set an alarm for ten minutes. Then when it goes off hit snooze and it will be another five or ten minutes before it sounds again. This then means that you won't be able to drift off into daydream because every time you forget to be cognizant of what you're meant to be doing, you will be startled back to wakefulness by the sound of your alarm. Similarly you can get a friend to nudge you or to check occasionally that you are still on the land of the living.
Of course being distracted isn't going to help you to be productive, but it will help you to avoid daydreaming. What then is the solution and how can you get the best of both worlds? Simple – you aim to distract the creative right side of the brain and you can do this by using music (but music which has no lyrics – as language is a left brain function). Part of the problem when you're trying to read a particularly dull text book is that it engages your left brain which is all about language and logic, but it doesn't engage your right brain which is about creativity. Thus that part of your brain wanders. If you have music on however, then you can avoid that side of your brain becoming distracting as it can 'hum along' to the music as it were.
Do Something Physical
If you are having a hard time staying in the real world then something physical can be used in order to ground you. For instance you will find that exercising or sports makes it quite hard for you to daydream, and likewise you might find that it's hard for you to daydream if you are tapping your own arm.
If you are daydreaming a lot then this might be a problem you are having with focus and attention. These are skills that can be trained like any other and there are many different ways you can do this. Look for brain training games online or on games consoles and phones etc and try practicing using these. Otherwise just try tasking yourself to concentrate hard on something for a certain amount of time without interruption.