If you’re a frequent daydreamer, you’ve likely explored the many different ways you can use your imagination. But here’s a question you’ve probably never considered: are you using the right daydream style?
You might ask, “Daydream style? Is there really such a thing?” As unusual as it sounds, it’s true – daydreams really do come in different styles. Of course, I’m not talking about fashion, but the way we approach and use daydreaming. But just like our wardrobe can make the difference between success and failure, the right daydream style can propel us toward our dreams – or drive us away from them.
Part of my goal here at The Dreaming Place is to show you how your daydreams can be a positive force in your life. That’s why we’re going to explore each daydream style and uncover the best one for success.
How We Usually Approach Daydreaming
It’s no secret that the thoughts we entertain have an effect on our state of mind, whether that impact is positive or negative. Yet despite knowing this, most of us can be quite careless about the direction our mind wanders.
We tend to take a casual approach daydreaming. We let our imagination flow in the direction it wants to go, not caring too much about where that direction leads. Although this can sometimes lead to rewarding discoveries, if this is the only way we interact with our inner world, we’re failing to use daydreaming to its fullest potential.
It’s essential not to forget that daydreams have a massive influence on our psyche. They can change how we perceive ourselves and the world, and ultimately determine the path we take in life. For this reason, we need to be wise about the way we daydream.
Our carefree attitude toward daydreaming isn’t entirely our fault. Most of us were never taught as children how to use our fantasies in a constructive way. At most, all we ever heard about daydreaming was how we need to do less of it.
For the longest time, even leading psychologists didn’t think there was anything redeeming about daydreaming. The dominant view for many years was that daydreaming is a sign of a personality flaw, or at worst, disordered thinking. This belief was especially prevalent in the 1950s, when psychologists discouraged people from daydreaming in order to prevent mental illness.1
How Daydream Research Paints a New Picture
While daydreaming hasn’t always had the best reputation in the eyes of society, decades of daydream research tells a different story. We now know that daydreaming is not a moral failing or a sign of pathology, but a normal human process.
Yet what we know about daydreaming is largely due to the early work of Jerome L. Singer, a psychologist and daydream researcher. Nicknamed the “father of daydreaming”, Singer has devoted over fifty years to understanding the nature of our consciousness. He was the first to establish a research program on daydreaming and the imagination.
It was Singer who discovered that there isn’t just one type of daydream, but many.
The Discovery of Daydream Styles
Part of Singer’s research involved investigation into the different ways that people daydream. He developed a specific tool to root out the answers: a questionnaire called the Imaginal Process Inventory (IPI). The IPI looked at several factors, such how often people fantasize, the content of their daydreams, and the extent that they feel distracted.2
While the IPI found that people can have many different daydream styles, there were three that stood out the most prominently:
- Positive-constructive daydreaming: distinguished by creative thinking or a playful, wishful imagination.
- Guilty-dysphoric daydreaming: involves obsessive or anguished daydreams.
- Poor attentional control: illustrates the inability to focus on tasks or finish a train of thought.3
The daydream styles we use can also reveal our personality. Singer and his colleagues found that the three daydream styles match with certain personality traits of the Five Factor Model.3 Positive-constructive daydreaming reflects an Openness to Experience – the personality connected to intelligence, emotional awareness, curiosity, and creativity. Guilty-dysphoric daydreaming is linked to neuroticism, while poor attentional control demonstrates Conscientiousness, characterized by self-discipline, achievement, and careful planning.3
Which Daydream Style is the Best?
There’s a good chance that you’ve used some or all of these styles at some point or another. But if you’d like to make the most of your mind wandering, it’s best to focus on positive-constructive daydreaming. People who use this style will have happy, whimsical daydreams that are full of intensity. These fantasies can even be as vivid as a picture.2
But there’s more to positive-constructive daydreaming than just fun. According to research, this style gives daydreaming its many benefits and serves four functions:
- Future planning. With this style, we are more inclined to plan our steps, set goals, and prepare for the future.
- Creativity. Positive-constructive daydreaming lets our imagination take flight. We can use it in our creative pursuits or whenever we’re problem solving.
- Attentional cycling. This function allows us to jump back and forth between bits of information and achieve personal growth.
- Dishabituation. This is a trait that boosts our learning when we take short breaks from mind-intensive activities.2
3 Ways You Can Start Using Positive-Constructive Daydreaming
Positive-constructive daydreaming can help improve many areas of your life, but you don’t have to wait to take advantage of it. Here are three ways you can get started.
- Visualization. Imagine your life the way you want it to be. You might see yourself in your ideal career, or in the perfect relationship. Paint a detailed picture in your mind and make it as specific as possible. Engage your five senses: add textures, smells, sounds, etc. Use these images as motivation to achieve your goals.
- Creative writing. Map out ideas for a short story or novel. As you brainstorm, write down any thoughts that come to you. Don’t filter out the possibilities – let your mind run free. When you’re satisfied, take the best ideas and use them in your next story.
- Self-reflection. Take a trip down memory lane. Pick a favorite moment from your past and reimagine it in your mind. Think about how that memory has changed you as a person and what lessons you can learn from the experience. Write down your thoughts in a journal and come back to them from time to time – you may find that over time, you have new insights and perspectives.
Daydreams are not just recreational, nor are they just a way of passing the time. Although daydreaming has been viewed in a negative light, it’s time for a change. Through the use of positive-constructive daydreaming, we can make the most our imagination and use it to reach our goals and dreams.
What daydream style do you use the most? How has daydreaming helped you to reach your goals? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
 McMillan, Rebecca L., Scott Barry Kaufman, and Jerome L. Singer. “Ode to Positive Constructive Daydreaming.” Frontiers. N.p., 23 Sept. 2013. Web. 21 June 2016.
 Kaufman, Scott Barry, and Jerome L. Singer. “The Origins of Positive-Constructive Daydreaming.” Scientific American. Scientific American, 22 Dec. 2011. Web. 12 Aug. 2016.