‘Stop daydreaming’ we’ve all heard those words from one time to another but now, there is evidence to suggest that daydreaming can actually be good for your mental state and that it has interesting parallels to the state of deep hypnotic trance.
Our understanding of brain waves has come a long way since the invention of the EEG (Electroencephalograph) by Hans Berger in 1924. Brain waves are electrical pulses that fire between our millions of brain cells or ‘neurons’, communicating endlessly across different regions of our brain. These brain waves change as we vary our tasks and activities throughout the day. Over any 24 hour period our brain cycles through gamma, alpha, beta, theta and delta states as the electrical activity across our neurons varies in frequency and altitude.
When we are relaxing, we are typically in an alpha brain wave state. The onset of the hypnotic state is also characterised by alpha brain wave patterns. Daydreaming and deeper levels of hypnotic trance are interesting. During both of these states, our brain waves shift to theta, which is quite different from just normal restfulness and relaxation. Theta is a hypnagogic state- a transitional state between wakefulness and sleep. When we are in theta yes we are deeply relaxed, but our brain does something amazing- the subconscious mind becomes accessible and more influential than it is in alpha (relaxed) or beta (normal wakeful/thoughtful). Thoughts and troubles that have been bothering us seem to ‘quieten down’ and our ability to self-programme seems to increase. We are familiar with ‘self-programming’ during daydreaming when a thought or new idea just comes to us from what seems like nowhere. We understand that it is actually coming from our subconscious brain.
The theta state of daydreaming in deep trance is associated with intuitive, imaginative and creative thought and deep relaxation. It is not surprising then that it is powerful in lowering anxiety, lowering stress and is harnessed by skilled hypnotherapists to enable therapeutic change.
So, next time you’re commuting on the train or passing time, allow yourself time to daydream. Don’t be tempted to play with your phone, read your book or feel like you have to fill that vacant time with something. Allow yourself a little time just to let your wonderful roaming brain, find its theta state.
It is worth noting that there have been several studies linking rumination to depression and that spending high levels of time ‘thinking about things’ can actually exacerbate depression. If your mood is low and you have a tendency to ruminate you may wish to explore ways to break the rumination cycle. The following link is a good place to start https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201306/the-seven-hidden-dangers-brooding-and-ruminating.