Your best-selling book The Year of Magical Thinking chronicles your grief
following the loss of your husband, John. What surprised you most about
I did not expect the degree of derangement-both physiological and mental. An
example of the latter: Two weeks after John died, when I filled out a hospital
form for the autopsy report, I gave not my own address but that of an apartment
in which we had lived for the first four or five months of our marriage, in
"Daydreaming is looked upon negatively because it represents 'non-doing' in
a society that emphasizes productivity," says John McGrail, a clinical
hypnotherapist in Los Angeles. "We are under constant pressure to do, achieve,
But daydreaming can be beneficial in many ways and, ironically, can actually
boost productivity. Plus, it's something almost everyone does naturally.
Psychologists estimate that we daydream for one-third to one-half of our waking
hours, although a single daydream lasts only a few minutes.
At their best, daydreams allow you "a range of possibilities which, in the
hard cold light of reality, aren't possible," psychiatrist Stuart Twemlow tells
WebMD. Twemlow is director of the Hope Program at The Menninger Clinic in
Specifically, daydreaming helps you:
Relax. Like meditation, daydreaming allows your mind to
take a break, a mini-vacation in which to release tension and anxiety and
"return" refreshed. It's also very useful for controlling anxiety and phobias.
Say, for example, that you're afraid of flying, which you have to do for an
upcoming trip. By mentally rehearsing the various steps involved -- driving to
the airport, getting on the plane, taking off, etc. -- you'll be better able to
handle the actual events. It also helps to practice deep breathing anytime a
certain thought makes you tense.
Manage conflict. The same kind of organized daydreaming --
or visualization -- used to curb anxiety is also useful for personal conflicts.
Psychotherapist Tina Tessina calls it "rewinding the tape." As you review in
your mind an argument you had with someone, you go back and imagine responding
differently than you did. Try this a few times, responding differently each
time, and you'll begin to figure out better ways of dealing with the person in
the future. "This exercise really helps you avoid your standard knee-jerk
reactions," Tessina tells WebMD.
Maintain relationships. Absence makes the heart grow
fonder, especially among daydreamers. Happy couples tend to think about one
another when they're apart, which has the effect of psychologically maintaining
the relationship, says James Honeycutt, PhD, author of Imagined Interactions:
Daydreaming about Communication. "We daydream about the people we love,"
Honeycutt tells WebMD. "We imagine sharing good news with them, along with our
successes and failures. Unhappy couples daydream about arguments and ruminate
about conflict while happy individuals think positively ahead."
Boost productivity. "Often I find that allowing myself a
few minutes for daydreaming can help me to be more productive in the long run,"
says Cari Noga, a freelance writer in Traverse City, Mich. "For example, just
the other day I had a lot to do around the house: laundry, dishes, cleaning,
bathroom scrubbing. I tried throwing myself into the work, but I found myself
getting distracted. So I sat on the couch and allowed myself 15 minutes of
daydream time. I let my mind wander, and instead of thinking about things I had
to do, I imagined things, places, people. When my 15 minutes were up, I was in
a much better mood, my mind was clearer, and I really had the urge to get
things done. And my house got cleaned!"