Why Do We Daydream?

People daydream in order to help plan out future goals, work out solutions to problems, or re-examine past events. Daydreaming often occurs as a response to mentally demanding tasks, giving the mind a break from problems that temporarily overwhelm its mental capacity.

Daydreaming most often relates to personal goals, whether short-term or long-term. Daydreams may focus on something as mundane as what to buy at the grocery store later or the consideration of what to say to someone in an upcoming conversation. People often analyze previous conversations, interactions or choices in order to create a connection between past, present and future goals. Daydreaming about social situations helps individuals empathize with others, considering their possible feelings and intentions. This type of daydreaming may help individuals work out decisions about how to interact with others in social settings.

Typically, daydreaming relates to potential future events. From more immediate thoughts about weekend plans to larger considerations about where to work or who to marry, daydreams help individuals consider and orchestrate future plans. They function as a sort of mental rehearsal, preparing people for possible situations and outcomes.

Daydreaming can also occur as problem-solving strategy. When the mind is allowed to wander, it often discovers new solutions that may have previously eluded it. Shifting focus from a specific problem can help the mind approach that issue from a different perspective.