Zoning Out

Zoning Out
By Veronica MacDonald Ditko
An Accidental Anthropologist

veronicawindowI truly get bitten by the daydreaming bug as soon as the weather gets warmer. Really it’s the sun that entrances me: the way the spring light dances and lingers during the day. And the smell of the thawing, melting earth – I just love it!

If I’m indoors, I find myself looking out the closest window dreamily, often with my face pressed against the glass and my chin resting on my hands. The word “mañana” floats through my head constantly. All I want to do is breathe the fresh air.

But this intentional zoning out of the tasks at hand is not something that happens just in the spring. It happens every day of the year. It usually occurs when my mind is overloaded and I need a break of some kind. The zoning out makes me happy. The zoning out keeps me sane. And it makes me wonder: is zoning out necessary for survival?

Psychologists estimate that we daydream up to half of our waking hours, even though a single daydream lasts just a few minutes. Studies tout the many benefits: improved productivity, problem-solving, creativity, relationships, and memory, and reduced stress and anxiety.

The brain is a very big organ and some people really know how to tap into it. Like a friend of mine, she never forgets a conversation. Seriously. She’s very friendly and likes to talk, so imagine how many conversations for every day of her life she remembers. Maybe it’s because she keeps a detailed diary, so she reinforces every conversation twice in her mind. One time I challenged her on what was said, and low and behold, I was wrong according to her diary of three years prior.

I have a very selective memory. I never forget a face or name, but if you need me to get every word of a song right, even if I listen to it every day, forget it. I’m terrible with verses. And I absolutely love history, but if you ask me the exact years of the Civil War, I won’t get it right. Numbers just don’t stick.

So I think I do alright getting along in everyday life. I am definitely not using my brain’s full potential (TV at the end of the day, anyone?), but I know when I’ve had enough. Sometimes my brain literally hurts when all the circuits get overloaded. It usually coincides with a meal time. So maybe my whole body is low on energy, but giving my mind a break is really refreshing.

And we do need breaks. It always freaks me out to think of the poor Japanese workers who killed themselves from overwork, karoshi. Funny enough, daydreaming is a very intense brain activity, and some scientists believe it is how we make new connections in the brain. Well, whether it’s really resting or not, mind-wandering is uplifting.

So I encourage you to look out that window a few times, and stare out into space as you think of paradise. You’ll be healthier for it. When you get back to work, just know that paradise isn’t too far away!

Veronica MacDonald Ditko is originally from the Jersey Shore, but married and settled in northern New Jersey. Her journalism career started a decade ago after studying Psychology and Anthropology in Massachusetts. She has written for several newspapers and magazines including The Daily Hampshire Gazette, The Springfield Union News and Sunday Republican, Happi, Chemical Week, The Hawthorne Press, The Jewish Standard, Suite101.com and more.