Nine other reasons to get your maladaptive daydreaming under control

Reservoir Lake and campground in Dillon Ranger District of Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Montana, September 11, 2019. USDA Photo by Preston Keres

If you’re struggling with maladaptive daydreaming disorder, you already know how much time your daydreaming is stealing from you. It’s not unusual for maladaptive daydreamers to spend upwards of four hours a day lost in fantasy. That’s more than a whole day every week, or two months out of every year. If you’re a maladaptive daydreamer, you know what that lost time represents. You know how much more you could achieve if you could just reduce your daydreaming to a manageable level.

But it’s not just time that maladaptive daydreaming steals from us. In addition to having more time for real life, there are many other benefits to reducing the amount of time you spend daydreaming.

1. You could study for your exams, or complete your work on time

Excessive daydreaming interferes with your professional life. Many daydreamers struggle with tasks that require mental effort. The more focus and concentration a task demands, the more likely we are to be distracted by our daydream worlds. If you had control over your daydreaming, you’d be better able to concentrate on advancing your career.

2. You’d get more sleep

What if you didn’t stay up late to daydream for ‘just a few more minutes’? And what if once you turned out the light, you could actually fall asleep instead of daydreaming for half the night? If you could do that, you could go to bed at a sensible time and wake up rested because you’d actually be getting enough sleep.

3. You wouldn’t be so tired all the time

It’s not just lack of sleep that tires out maladaptive daydreamers. If you pace or do any other repetitive movement, that takes energy. If you know how many steps you clock up while pacing, try converting that into distance walked and then you’ll understand why you’re always tired. And on top of that, daydreaming itself uses up mental energy and can be exhausting even if you don’t need to move while doing it.

4. You’d be able to put the past behind you

Not all daydreamers hang onto the past through their daydreams, but many do. Whether you’re still mentally dating an ex-partner long after the relationship has ended, or you keep daydreaming a past failure or disappointment and imagining a better ending, if you keep reliving the past in your daydreams, you’re not moving on from it. When you have more control over your daydreaming, you can direct the plot more intentionally instead of helplessly and unhelpfully replaying the past.

5. You could increase your motivation to pursue real-life goals

Excessive daydreaming extinguishes our motivation. It’s hard to summon up the energy and commitment necessary to pursue a goal in real-life, knowing that there is the possibility of failure. It’s far easier to daydream about achieving the goal, because we can be certain of the outcome and we can skip all the hard work necessary to get there. But when you have control over your daydreaming, you can use positive visualisation to make your goals feel achievable, and your daydreaming actually becomes a tool that helps you get what you want in real life.

6. You could improve your social skills

Those of us who started maladaptively daydreaming in childhood didn’t master social skills at the same time as our peers, because we were busy playing with our imaginary friends. And many maladaptive daydreamers continue to prefer the safe and predictable interactions we have with our characters. Acquiring the social skills necessary to build satisfying friendships in the real world takes practice, and you can’t get that practice if you don’t venture out of your daydream world.

7. You could enter into a romantic relationship without unrealistic expectations

Have you ever been on a first date with someone you really like, and immediately made them your daydream partner? Before you get to the second date you’ve already daydreamed a whole life together. And you’ve filled in all the details you don’t yet know about this person. You’ve made them perfect in your head before you’ve given yourself a chance to get to know them in real life. And when the real-life version doesn’t live up to your daydream expectations, the relationship fails before you’ve even given it a chance.

8. You wouldn’t have to hide your daydreaming from family and friends

Most of us don’t want the people closest to us to know how much time we spend daydreaming, so we make up excuses for why we can’t go out, or why we didn’t get something done. And then we feel bad about lying. But if you were in control of your daydreaming, you wouldn’t have to lie. You’d put your friends and family first. Your daydreaming would then just be something you do in your spare time rather than a shameful secret you have to hide.

9. You’d feel proud of yourself

None of us should feel bad about daydreaming; it’s just the way our minds work. If you’re a maladaptive daydreamer, there’s a reason your daydreaming got out of control: you needed to escape from a painful reality and you didn’t have any better options. But it’s not until you try to stop or cut down on your daydreaming that you realise just how addictive it can be. And when you find you can’t stop, that can itself provoke a lot of shame. We tell ourselves that we should be able to control it. If you’ve tried and failed, you know it’s not that simple. But what if you tried to control your daydreaming and you succeeded? The shame you feel about not being able to stop would be gone, and you could be proud of your achievement.

Do some of these possibilities resonate with you? Are you feeling more motivated about overcoming your maladaptive daydreaming? If your daydreaming is consuming many hours of your day, every day, I hope you can see that cutting down on the amount of time you spend daydreaming would positively affect many aspects of your life. But I’m not suggesting you stop daydreaming completely. All of the above benefits can be realised if you reduce your daydreaming to a manageable level. What’s manageable depends on you and on what else you have to fit into your life. There’s no specific time limit. The important thing is that you reduce your daydreaming to a level where you’re in control, where you can daydream and still live your best life in the real world. If can do that, you’re well on the way to being able to use your daydreaming productively to make your real life better than you ever imagined it could be.

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