Is Your Mind Wandering Too Much?

    We’ve all faced the problem of having a wandering mind every now and again.

    We’ve all been found guilty of daydreaming when we should be doing something else. However, if you noticed that this problem seems persistent for you, it might be indicative of how you think.

    A review of over 200 studies was recently conducted by researchers from both the University of California, Berkeley and the University of British Columbia in order to highlight the relationship between a wandering mind and the thinking processes of those with mental illnesses and those involved in creativity.

    The Role Mind-Wandering Serves Creatively

    The researchers defined mind-wandering as a spontaneous movement from one thought to another in the mind without external focus.

    Creative thinking is often seen as an extension of what people see as ordinary mind-wandering. In fact, researchers have even linked daydreaming with creativity.

    Psychologists have recently observed that highly creative people have a tendency toward a variation of a wandering mind deemed “positive-constructive daydreaming.”

    This has also been associated with self-awareness, increased compassion, and goal-oriented thinking.

    Part of the reason mind-wandering is so common in creatives is the fact that it enables us to think flexibly and draw upon our internal bank of feelings, memories, and images to create new connections.

    Dr. Kalina Christoff, the principal investigator of the Cognitive Neuroscience of Thought Laboratory at UBC and lead author of the study, said: “Mind-wandering in the sense of the mind moving freely from one idea to another has huge benefits in terms of arriving at new ideas.

    It’s by virtue of free movement that we generate new ideas, and that’s where creativity lies.”

    The Role Mind-Wandering Plays in Those with Mental Illnesses

    Researchers have found that alterations in spontaneous thought tend to occur in the thought patterns of those with various psychological disorders.

    For example, the minds of those with ADHD tend to wander more frequently and widely than that of someone without it. For those with anxiety and depression, the mind has a strong tendency to get stuck on a negative thought or specific worry.

    The importance of this discovery is that it could lead to earlier recognition of mental illness sparking earlier admittance of a need for help.

    If more people are aware that their mind wandering to exclusively negative thoughts or simply circling around negativity frequently, they’ll be aware of the need to ask for assistance from a mental health professional.

    Zachary Irving, a postdoctoral scholar at UC, Berkeley, and co-author of this scholar who has ADHD, said: “Disorders like ADHD and anxiety and depression aren’t totally disconnected from what normally goes on in the mind.

    There’s this ordinary ebb and flow of thoughts, where you’re moving from mind-wandering to sticky thoughts to goal-directed thoughts. “We think of these disorders as exaggerated versions of those sorts of ordinary thoughts.”

    What This Information Means

    In addition to making people better aware of the state of their mental health, this information could change how teachers handle students guilty of letting their minds wander a bit too much. It also gives us a better insight into what the creative thought process is like. 

    This discovery could change how we view and treat creativity and mental illnesses.

    We’ve all been guilty of letting our minds wander a bit too much every once and a while. However, if you can’t help but let your mind wander frequently, it may be indicative of a mental health issue.

    Researchers recently researched the connection between wandering minds and those who are creatively inclined and those who have a mental illness.

    This research could change the way we view and treat highly creative individuals and those with mental illness. It has the power to affect the ways authority figures handle these behaviors in a school setting.

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