Tuesday, November 8, 2011

QUIET Time: The Power of Daydreaming

From: radio.studio92.com
Quiet time has many connotations for me, but mostly, it is a time to NOT pay attention to the things around me.  It is a time to spend thinking, watching, or doing, whatever it is I need to do FOR ME at that particular point in time.

Quiet time is a good thing, and it is something that I think is more and more difficult to find in our hectic multimedia and often over-stimulated lives.  In today's world, with instant messaging, texting, tweeting, and emailing, all of which can be done at home, work, or anywhere our 'smart' phones get reception, there is no down or quiet time.

Last week (http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2011/11/paying-attention.html), I blogged about the importance of paying attention and focusing on tasks at hand. I briefly discussed an article by neuroscientist / columnist Jonah Lehrer relating attention to executive functioning skills and then listed activities you could do to help boost attention span, energy, focusing and executive function skills.

Jonah Lehrer, while discussing the importance of attention, focus, and executive functioning, presents an alternate argument in another essay "Against Attention" (which can be found in The Wall Street Journal February 21, 2011 or at http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/02/against-attention/). Here he argues for the need to NOT PAY ATTENTION, to 'boot down' to a "quiet" time and place, letting the mind rest and wander.

In Against Attention, Lehrer notes that:
From: hypnotherapyfife.co.uk
We live in a time that worships attention... In fact, the ability to pay attention is considered such an essential life skill that the lack of it has become a widespread medical problem. Nearly 10% of American children are now diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
In recent years, however, scientists have begun to outline the surprising benefits of not paying attention. Sometimes, too much focus can backfire...
Lehrer then relates research indicating that:
  • There is a surprising link between daydreaming and creativity—people who daydream more are also better at generating new ideas. 
  • Employees are more productive when they’re allowed to engage in “internet leisure browsing”.
Lehrer notes that lapses in attention turn out to be a crucial creative skill. He writes that:
When we’re faced with a difficult problem, the most obvious solution—that first idea we focus on—is probably wrong. At such moments, it often helps to consider far-fetched possibilities, to approach the task from an unconventional perspective. And this is why distraction is helpful: People unable to focus are more likely to consider information that might seem irrelevant but will later inspire the breakthrough. When we don’t know where to look, we need to look everywhere.
However, before we all go running for our "quiet" daydreaming time, and start shorting stock in Red Bull and Starbucks, Lehrer also notes that:
This doesn’t mean, of course, that attention isn’t an important mental skill, or that attention-deficit disorders aren’t a serious problem. There’s clearly nothing advantageous about struggling in the classroom, or not being able to follow instructions. (It’s also worth pointing out that these studies all involve college students, which doesn’t tell us anything about those kids with ADHD who fail to graduate from high school. Distraction might be a cognitive luxury that not everyone can afford.)
His point: 
"Sometimes, the most productive thing we can do when trying to solve large problems is to meditate, take a long shower, or a long walk ... The takeaway is that we need to broaden our definition of “productive” thinking."

The key as I see it is finding a balance (as with most things).  We need to be able to focus on work and in school, but breaks are equally essential, and no-doze, caffeine boosts, and Red Bull may not be the best solutions.  The solution, instead, may be an occasional mind trip, walks, yoga, and recess in school balanced and sandwiched between more focused work sessions.

Finding balances:
  • When making schedules. leave some quiet, meditative, "relax"  time so that there is less hectic rushing and so that there is some time to use just for yourself - to think, daydream, read or walk in a park or woods. 
  • As a parent, this means encouraging focusing time for homework, with short breaks in between.  It may mean spending half an hour or 45 minutes doing math homework, taking a 20 minute break, and then returning to do more homework.  Schedule dinner as a break and outside/play time as well.
  • When developing family or school projects, talk about your goals and options with others. Make notes but put those notes down, go for a walk, and come back to the project.  See if other ideas have surfaced and pursue those as well.
  • Discuss current events or family decisions together at the table, in the car, or when together.  Brainstorm solutions and options.  Allow for whacky suggestions that you pursue further - whether in jest or not.  
  • Model open-mindedness and the value of off-beat ideas, places, and people.
Living in NYC, going for walks is actually more stimulating than relaxing as you navigate texters, dog walkers, joggers, and families walking in your path. For me, quiet time is sitting in the bath or shower.  I really do get most of my more creative ideas, or solve some of my 'issues' there.  I can't think of a day without that time.

Do you easily find quiet time or is it getting more difficult in our mulit-media always-available world to 'boot down'? How do you find and make quiet time? What is it that you like doing in this quiet time and place? Please share your ideas and strategies in the comments.


    1. This is really crazy! We posted next to each other and both are talking about "Quiet Time," although we've taken two different approaches! Quiet time, aka daydreaming, is so important. I believe our minds need to have unstructured time in order to purge itself from all the unnecessary junk it has to process. Sort of like rebooting a computer. Great post, as always. :-)

    2. My best blogging takes place in the shower or I'm biking or walking home. That's when the ideas come...

      ROG, ABC Wednesday team

    3. I, too, used the word "quiet" for my post today but in an altogether different way. I find I absolutely MUST have quiet time or else my blood pressure goes up. I always enjoyed the first 20 minutes or so after the kids had left school for the day - it was a big "AAH" time for me and I often would go and get a cup of tea in the staff room to rewind. Then I'd go back up to my classroom and work for another couple of hours so I could leave it all there until the next day. Now, with tutoring 3 or 4 hours straight through in the late afternoon/early evening, I make sure I'm home at least a half hour before the first student so I can have that time to just be quiet with myself. As you say, it's an essential part of the day.

      abcw team

    4. You always come up with such interesting posts for the letters each week. I am a daydreamer.

    5. I fear that most people dot have enough quiet time any more. One of the problems pf "progress."

    6. I enjoyed this and especially the finding balances-very relevant to a home schooling mother. Ideas don't come when there is no space to think.

    7. Quiet time is about non-existent for me since 5 grandchildren live in the house.
      They don't homeschool, and my husband wonders why I allow my daughter that I do homeschool to sleep until after 10 am or so. It's because it's the closest I get to time to myself to get things done for me. I do still have to put up with a 2 yr old grandson during that time though, unless my daughter has somewhere to go and takes him with her.

    8. The art of not paying attention, - it is so important for mental health and creativity, - in moderation of course.

    9. Not being able to 'NOT pay attention' (i.e. constantly badgered to focus and forget dreams as they're a waste of time) is one of the major reasons I divorced my goal-driven, can't-take-a-rest-until-target-is-hit, daydream scorner, business executive husband.

    10. Since I am retired, I find I love my quiet time. My quiet time is spend reading, a favorite pastime of mine. That about says it for me and my Quiet time.

    11. Quiet time! what is it???
      hahaha, you post just made me smile. I sometimes wonder, how can i stay quiet, with so many thoughts wandering in my mind.

    12. Very interesting! I have lots of quiet time in the sense of tranquility, which I consider it a great luxury nowadays. I talk to myself in quiet moments, admire the little things around me, and I daydream.

    13. interesting post! love my quiet time just me and myself alone :)

    14. I find quiet time after every little job I do in my house. Vacuum cleaning, washing the dishes,...
      I do a puzzle, a quiz(!!), a telephone call...
      I like blogging, which is not always easy. A post like yours needs a lot of reading and attention in order to answer or comment in a more or less intelligent way. But I try to pay attention to your entries.
      Now I'd like to thank you for doing the quiz.
      Five answers were right. Five were the answers often given to me by a lot of non Dutch people, that's the reason why I wanted to do this quiz.

      Here they are:
      3c Our official language is Dutch. Friesian is spoken in the province of Friesland, but Dutch is obligatory in official legal matters. They learn both languages at school.
      4b. We are a kingdom,
      5b. We have a Queen.
      7c. Rotterdam ( the Hague is only a fishing port
      and Amsterdam has a much smaller harbour than Rotterdam) For a long time after the war Rotterdam has even been the first harbour in the world.
      10a Gouda produces cheese and candles. In December one of the Tuesdays before Christmas is called Candle Night and then the citycentre is lit only by candlelight.
      I hope you are not disappointed? I am glad you did join the quiz, for now I know that I didn't inform you all very well! I shall do my best to write more and better about my country.

    15. This was a great post! Finding the balance is so very important. This is something I find very hard to do as a home schooling mother. I often worry about my oldest son, now in college, who is texting and instant messaging it seems ALL the time. I wonder how does he have time to think, get his school work done or just THINK! with the girl friend always wanting attention from a distance. ((all though, I feel I must say, she is a very nice girl and I do really like her. It just seems to be A LOT of instant contact. . .there is no time to miss each other and wonder what the other one is doing. I feel something is lost by all this instant contact. . . So a mother worries. ;) )) anyway GREAT POST! gave me a lot to think about.

    16. Thanks for sharing this. I completely agree with you, this is so important. I meditate daily and I make Mondays (LushLunes) a day in which I take an extra few minutes of ME Time. It's easy to become addicted to TV, Social Media, etc and we need to get off the grid once in a while. I have noticed the way that media in general has changed the attention span of children and it's important to start at home with the example.


    17. If only all the people knew that to get rid of stress is to take a quite time. Even if it takes only 10 minutes of the day ^_^ Great post here!


    18. Thanks Meryl - this is just the kind of advice I needed, now I'm going to take some quiet time!!!

    19. great advice, but i must admit, my best ideas come when I am out walking.

    20. I enjoyed the Lehrer clip, always fascinating to hear about the insights into the brain. As you say finding balance is the ideal, good points.

    21. Yesterday in the car, my 13 yr old was staring out of the window. When i asked what she was doing, she said, just daydreaming. What about, i asked? Not really thinking, just seeing colors ... and no words ... just daydreaming ...
      Loved it ...

    22. To find a quiet time, I have to walk in the woods sometimes, it relaxes me. Beautiful post Meryl.

    23. I am your newest follower via GFC through the Take if From Me, Welcome Wednesday hop. I hope you stop by and visit soon.

      Couponing From Florida to Michigan


      I have quiet time every day. It just went by so fast, and then the kids were grown and gone. :(

    24. We used to build a quiet time into the school day. Staff and pupils would spend ten or fifteen minutes just reading quietly. (Obviously, for younger children there was a different emphasis.)
      Learning to accept peace is difficult. Attending my youngest daughter's Evening Meeting at her Quaker school was enlightening.

    25. I schedule a little meditation every day. Even thought I'm alone except for the dog most of the day (I'm currently a homemaker), there's still the clutter of life going on. A little time to one's self and a brain break is definitely important for productivity.

    26. In Singapore schools, they have a silent reader. My mind is seldom silent, esp now that I am blogging. I am busy thinking what to blog.

    27. Hello.
      I hear you with this post.
      Just a few days ago, I had to take some time away from blogosphere to regroup.
      Wonderful write-up.
      Thanks for sharing & visiting. I appreciate it.

      Queen Of Flowers

    28. Thanks for sharing.
      Hello. I'm stopping by from the Monster Hop. I'm following you by GFC. I'd love if you stopped by my blog.


    29. great point about day-dreaming! It actually works, as I tried on myself ;) Just "mumble" around with my camera now and then to blog is my quiet time. You can argue about being on internet, but I think the most important is to be with yourself and have pleasant activity, doesn't matter if you reading the book, laying on the beach or taking photos of the clouds... On the other hand, I had cleaned up my @ socializing, reducing Facebook, etc. Thanks for writing this! There are 2 ends of the stick, good one or bad ;)

    30. Starting to use a standing desk really helped. Another game-changing move was switching to using the INK for ALL text editor.