It’s that dead week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and here I am at the office. Trying to work (promise), but having a really hard time staying focused on the tasks at hand what with all the thoughts of champagne, crackers, and long weekends dancing through my head.

As it turns out, this is not necessarily a bad thing. A recent study issued by the Chinese Academy of Sciences indicates that daydreaming has a beneficial effect on the brain’s ability to forge disparate neural connections and possibly contributes to higher IQs. As Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide, puts it, “It turns out that cultivating an active idle mind, or teaching yourself how to daydream effectively, might actually encourage the sort of long-range neural connections that make us smart.” Because such flights of fancy – often unrealistic, even ridiculous – increase communication between remote areas of the brain, they lead to a generally greater level of activity incorporating richer and more diverse synaptic ‘conversation’.

On a related front, another recently completed study from Harvard University established a connection between a person’s freedom to mentally drift and their emotional state. Participants were asked to report upon the various activities they engaged in during their waking hours, to what extent it was necessary to focus on that particular activity, and a corresponding rate of happiness at that point in time. The study found that the more room participants’ minds had to wander, the happier they reported feeling.

When considered in tandem with our culture – with its great emphasis on efficiency and productivity (the early bird gets the worm; early to bed, early to rise; and so on) – it seems that daydreaming is getting short shrift. Contemplation is not indolence. And besides, our service- and idea-based economy relies inherently on the inspired creativity of leaders. The ability to conceptualize elegant,  unexpected, and even obscure combinations or recombinations is a driver of our economic engine. So, altogether now – Get up. Get out. And do…nothing. Except maybe contemplate the sidewalk, or consider whether that fern really does look like your Aunt Bertie. Feels good, doesn’t it?

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