Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daydreaming Blog Now on

Hey everyone--I have been invited to be a regular blogger on, so I will be doing all my current posts on that site. Please change your bookmarks, etc., and visit me over there!

The new blog is called The Power of Daydreaming---hope to chat with you there. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Aha" Moments Caught on "Tape"

An excellent article in the Wall Street Journal by Robert Lee Hotz reports on research that has "caught on tape" the moment of insight that comes to us in a daydreaming state of mind. “…EEG recordings revealed a distinctive flash of gamma waves emanating from the brain’s right hemisphere… of a second before a volunteer experienced their conscious moment of insight,” writes Hotz.

What’s more, the moment of insight was associated with a change in alpha brain waves in the visual cortex, which also jibes with what researchers know about the daydreaming state. The brain enters an alpha wave state while daydreaming, which is a more relaxed state of mind, and when daydreaming we can envision things, in other words, we can see with the mind’s eye. According to the researchers, these calming changes brought to us via our daydreaming state of mind helps to “quiet the noise” so that we can experience the answer or connection.

What’s weird, according to the researchers, is that the moment of insight seems to happen before we’re even consciously aware of it. That’s why the answer seems to come out of nowhere, but actually, we’re accessing stores of knowledge, memory, and experience unavailable to us when we’re focusing/struggling/concentrating. And thus—the supreme value of the daydreaming state of mind.

We owe a great debt to psychologists who started the research on daydreaming but it appears that the neuroscientists are taking us to the next level when it comes to understanding the mechanics of daydreams.

What's your experience with "aha" moments?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Have a question about daydreams? Looking for a great book club selection?

If you have a question about daydreaming in general or your own personal daydreams, visit my Daydreams At Work website and use the "contact Amy" form to ask any question.

Daydreaming is a dynamic topic for discussion. Make Daydreams at Work your next book club selection, and I guarantee you the conversation will get very interesting very fast. Visit my Daydreams at Work website for a link to the book club discussion guide. In addition, I'd be happy to call in during your club meeting to answer any questions you might have.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Drinking, Daydreaming, and the Capacity for Interruption

One of the reasons we can get away with daydreaming so frequently in life and experience its many benefits—creative problem solving, idea generation, conceptualizing—is because the mind has a great capacity for interruption. Generally, we can snap quickly out of daydreams as some external event punctures the dream. In other words, we can respond to what we need to and move in and out of daydreams at lightning speed.

It’s as if the brain has made some bargain— the possibility of an occasional missed cue (i.e., a missed exit sign) for the extra brain power we get via daydreaming. On the whole, it’s a process that seems to work well—with some exceptions as pointed out in new study from my alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh.

When drunk, not only are we more likely to slip into a daydreaming/mind wandering state, we are less likely to be aware that we’re daydreaming and thus unable or unwilling to snap out of it quickly.

“Some part of the brain has to know what we can get away with” in terms of daydreaming vs. real-world attention, researcher Malia Mason, PhD, told me when I interviewed her for Daydreams at Work, and it looks like this study is getting us closer to that answer.

Jonah Lehrer writes in his science blog about another downside of being unaware that we’re daydreaming—people who are unaware that they’re daydreaming, whether they’re drunk or simply out-of-touch with their daydreaming nature, are less likely to notice when they’ve come up with some kind of creative insight or association, according to researcher Jonathan Schooler. “Letting your mind drift off is the easy part,” says Schooler. “The hard part is maintaining enough awareness so that even when you start to daydream you can interrupt yourself and notice a creative thought.”

Friday, June 12, 2009

Daydreams at Work reading/signing at Sacred Circle Books in Old Town Alexandria, VA

An impromtu discussion on daydreaming as I signed my new book Daydreams at Work at the beautiful and peaceful Sacred Circle Books in Old Town Alexandria, VA. Thanks to Shelf Awareness for featuring the signing as the "Image of the Day" in their e-newsletter, a great newsletter that goes out to indie booksellers, libraries, and web booksellers. Thanks!

If you’re in Old Town Alexandria, VA, on Sat. 6/13 Stop by and see me for reading/signing of Daydreams at Work at Sacred Circle Books 5:30-7.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Radio Interviews on Work, Daydreaming, & Motivation

I recently completed two radio interviews related to Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers. On the Work Matters radio show, host Nan Russell and I discussed how daydreaming and work really do go together, and the growing importance of innovation and creativity in the workplace--not just for businesses but for employees as well. It's a fast-changing competitive world out there and as Edison once said, "To have a good idea, have lots of them." And the way to have lots of ideas and to understand the creative process is to begin exploring your daydreaming state of mind.

On Dream List Radio, host Melissa Borghorst and I also discussed how people can tap into their daydreams at work and for work, and also talked about how people can use their daydreams as motivation to achieve their personal and professional dreams.

I used my own daydreaming capacity to prepare for both of these interviews. I went on long walks and runs to put myself into a daydreaming state so I'd be at my creative best in brainstorming potential questions and answers. We do a lot of our creative planning and analyzing while in a daydreaming state. Brain scan studies have shown that this is our most creative state of mind for complex problem solving and envisioning, as we can tap into stores of memory, knowledge, and experience unavailable when struggling for answers in a very focused state of mind.

Read more about it at my site

Friday, June 5, 2009

Top Seven Ways to Dream Better Daydreams

Daydreaming or fantasizing about another life or lifestyle is a great way to explore other options, escape the routines of daily life, and find outlets for intense emotion. But sometimes even our daydreams get stuck in a rut.

Everything you expose yourself to in life has the potential to kickoff related daydreams. That means if you’re watching Speidi on “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here,” you may find yourself having Speidi-related daydreams or some other spinoff daydream related to grade Z reality TV.

Movies, TV, music, the news, ads, books….all are fodder for fantasy and influence consciously and subconsciously the choices we make in life. That’s why it’s good to try to trace the source of your daydreams and see if they’re really helping you move in a direction you want or are they just junk food for your brain? Don’t get me wrong—junky daydreams are fun and whatever you do—don’t feel guilty about them. But if you want to expand your daydream material, here are my top seven suggestions:

1) Improve the quality of your movie/TV viewing and reading. More provocative topics will have you thinking more creatively.
2) Try something new—listen to new music, visit an art gallery, go to a comedy club.
3) Travel—even if it’s just a local half-day trip. Travel is a great way to jump-start new daydreams.
4) If you want to be more creative in your job—sign up for trade magazines, meetings, organizations, etc. People feed off each other’s ideas.
5) Exercise. Studies show that you daydream more while moving and that the creativity burst lasts for up to 2 hours after you’ve stopped.
6) Try a fantasy camp—the choices are endless. There’s even a gladiator fantasy camp in Italy. Or volunteer at some job you’ve always dreamed about—like playing with dolphins at the Baltimore aquarium.
7) Be wary of bad news and scary movies—they will definitely spark frightening daydreams. Those have a “planning” element to them, i.e., what would I do if someone broke into my house? But getting stuck in that fantasy rut can make you paranoid.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Daydreaming at Book Expo

I definitely had a dream come true this weekend at Book Expo. I got to sign and give away a lot of books and meet many people who admitted they were big daydreamers and who were finally glad to get the official thumbs up for daydreaming. I've been daydreaming about adding a forum to my website where people can anonymously share their daydreams. I think it would be fascinating. In fact the forum is ready to go, I just haven't summoned the nerve to publish it. It would probably take a while to catch on, but I guess "if you build it, they will come...." What do you think? Yeah or nay? Would you be willing to discuss your own daydreams if you could do it anonymously?

Thanks to everyone who came out to get a signed book. Thanks also to Kathleen, Jean, and Jane for handling the arrangements and to my family, Mark, Gretchen, and Rachel who dealt with some less-than-ideal flights to be there to show their support and to promote Daydreams at Work.

They looked great in their "I daydream at work" T-shirts, which were also great conversation starters. (Photos: I'm signing; my publisher Kathleen Hughes is on the left. Mark and Rachel in the second photo; Gretchen with the sign.)