What’s the Downside of Daydreaming?

As you elegantly step out of the limousine onto the red carpet, cheers instantly erupt from the waiting crowd. You reward them with a dazzling smile while the night sky lights up with hundreds of flashes from paparazzi cameras.

In one perfectly manicured hand you hold the new diamond-encrusted phone Apple designed especially for you. In the other, you clutch the Oscar you won the night before for Best Adapted Screenplay of your own best-selling novel (your legendary acceptance speech was both hilarious and moving, by the way).

Your phone rings. It’s Adele. What? She wants to duet with you on her new album? Well, how could you refuse? You’re not sure how you’ll squeeze it in, what with addressing the United Nations, the fitting for your new Marvel superhero costume, and collecting your Nobel Prize in Stockholm. But sure, Adele, anything for you. Suddenly, you hear a loud voice say:

“Due to signalling failure, the following trains have been cancelled…”

It’s then you remember you’re standing on a draughty train platform with a load of other cold and weary commuters, while a one-legged pigeon pecks at your shoe.

*

It’s not unusual to daydream about fame, wealth, celebrity and success. Who hasn’t?

As a young child, I spent quite of a lot of my time dreaming I was Daphne from Scooby Doo (don’t judge me – I’m sure she had hidden depths). But in adolescence, I not only started turning to food to cope with life, I also began regularly disappearing into my head for the same reason.

I once heard it described as pulling up the mental drawbridge and that’s exactly what it feels like. I can withdraw to the safe space inside my head, where life is happy and wonderful, the good guys always win and everything’s under my control.

I’m not alone. In the years I’ve been working with clients with overeating issues, what’s emerged is there’s often a correlation between binge eating and daydreaming.

So what? What’s wrong with retreating into the realms of fantasy? It’s not bad for you like binge eating and it doesn’t hurt your body. So why should it matter?

Like anything, it only becomes a problem if we do it regularly as a way of coping with life.

So, while they may not be obvious, what exactly are the downsides of daydreaming?

It removes you from reality
Which is fine if it’s occasional. Habitual escapism, however, means there’s something you’re attempting to get away from in your actual life – feelings, relationships, challenges, for example. If you’re spending a lot time locked up in your head, your issues don’t get resolved – feelings aren’t processed, relationships can’t be worked on, challenges aren’t overcome.

It perpetuates perfectionism
How can the Real You live up to Fantasy You? If, in your daydreams, you’re incredibly talented, attractive, successful, wealthy and popular, the real you can only appear flawed and disappointing by comparison. The more dissatisfied you feel with yourself and your life, the more likely you are to turn to food to escape. If you constantly daydream you have the perfect body, how satisfied are you going to be with your actual body?

It promotes instant gratification
Daydreaming means instant results and success – you’ve no sooner thought of writing a book than you’re daydreaming it’s a smash hit. In reality, writing a book takes time and effort. It’s important to learn to persevere with the things we want to achieve – such as getting fitter or making peace with food. If you’re hooked on the immediacy of daydreaming, it’s harder to accept the effort that real life takes.

It impedes risk taking
It’s easy to take risks in your mind because you can ensure everything works out well. But life is risky. Being a human being is risky. There’s no guarantee of success but we can learn so much and benefit so greatly from taking risks. I don’t mean risks that endanger ourselves or others, but the risk of doing something different – creating art, changing career, ending an unhappy relationship.

It takes up time
Time that could be better spent actually living your life. Time you could use to work on things that genuinely make you feel better – self-development, writing a journal, practising gratitude, preparing a wonderful meal for yourself, clearing stuff out of your house, getting outside.

*

I’m not suggesting you have to give up daydreaming. I certainly don’t intend to – I’ve had some of my best (and stupidest) ideas while daydreaming. But I realised a while ago that nothing was going to change in my life unless I got my head out of the clouds and started being realistic about who I am, what I truly want and what that involves.

So how do you make sure your daydreaming doesn’t have a downside?

Put in a daydreaming boundary
You don’t have to stop daydreaming altogether but consider a boundary to keep you anchored in reality most of the time. If there’s a problem in your life, the best place to work on it is in the here and now. Why not take some of the energy you use to daydream to actively work on self-acceptance?

Use daydreams as a signpost, not an escape
Are your daydreams clues to things you really want but think you can’t have? Use the information they provide to improve your real life. Do you want to find new friends, do some training or go travelling?

Action not inertia
If you really want to be happier, healthier, more fulfilled or more successful, get out of your head and do something. Nothing takes the place of realism, action and determination. We’re all capable of changing our lives for the better, we just struggle to believe that’s true. Action is how we prove it to ourselves.

Don’t spend your life wishing you were perfect or someone else entirely. If you do, you’ll keep turning to food to console yourself for not living up to the fantasy.

Instead, spend the time getting to know the real you and understanding what you really want. Then you can set about making your dreams a reality.

Because we all deserve to live the life of our dreams.

Isn’t it time you started living yours?

 

***

 

 “What’s the Downside of Daydreaming?” is the question for this month’s eatonomy group.

There are only 2 places left for this month’s group session so, if you’d like to take part, please get in touch using the Contact form. For more information about the eatonomy group, please see the Community page.

You can find additional questions for group members on the News page.

 

27 thoughts on “What’s the Downside of Daydreaming?

  1. ‘Get out of your head and do something’ that is true but for me it doesn’t always go that easy. Sometimes I can and sometimes some little anxiety or depression holds me back. But it must be done at some point, even if it is the tiniest step.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It doesn’t have to be a big step that might induce anxiety. Just some small action can help you feel like you’re moving forward, whereas continuing to daydream only keeps you stuck. Many thanks for sharing your experience, Kacha – I think many people will relate to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love! I daydreamed about being Susan Dey from the Partridge Family! Lol! She wasn’t a redhead like me. She was a brunette, skinny, hip and could sing! Haven’t thought about that until I read your post.😀 And yes Julie, I DO remember Daphne.😂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I love it! You were Laurie and I was Daphne. Lol! I loved “The Partridge Family” – Laurie was very cool and had the advantage, unlike Daphne, of being human, not a cartoon character – always a bonus. Thanks for making me laugh, Erin, I’m so glad my post prompted your memory.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this post. I’ve never thought of my childhood daydreaming as linked to my mental health problems, but it makes so much sense! And hopefully realising that will help me towards addressing whatever it is I’m avoiding dealing with…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very welcome, Lisa. I hope the post was useful and I wish you the best of luck dealing with whatever it is you feel you have to detach from. I appreciate you taking the time to share you experience, thank you.

      Like

  4. I’m such a daydreamer! I look forward to it at times, to disappear into my favourite ones (as a kid I was Thelma, or one of Charlie’s Angels, or Captain Kirk – saving the world somehow anyway 😂) I’ve had a nagging feeling I should cut back a bit on it, and your comments about instant gratification hit close to home… tied to my eating too! Thank you for the insights, helpful as always 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so relate about it being something you look forward to and I do think it’s a self-soothing activity like eating can be. But I feel it’s worth thinking about what impact it has – does it make us more dissatisfied with real life, for example? Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, Karen. It’s nice to know you were Velma to my Daphne! I think, in hindsight, Velma was always much cooler than Daphne – I just couldn’t see it at the time!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. haha I probably wished I could be Daphne, but that was too unrealistic even in my daydreams! Now I’m getting great ideas about us getting a big van, dog, couple of sidekicks … we’ll solve some international mysteries!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. For me, the biggest problem with daydreaming is what you mention about taking me away from reality… Away from enjoying the good in my real life, versus if I were a celebrity. I want to savor great moments now, and those times cuddling with my hubby are better than any riches I could dream of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You articulate that so well – it takes you “away from enjoying the good in my real life”. There can often be a side of us that wants us to be famous, but we rarely stop to question why. What would celebrity give us? Validation? Ultimate success? It’s hard not to buy into culturally-driven ideas of success which usually include wealth and fame. But our individual ideas of success may well look different. As you say, moments of shared closeness with your husband are worth more to you than money. Good for you, Christy, and thank you for sharing you thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing!!.. “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird, that cannot fly.” ( Langston Hughes)… 🙂

    “There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” – Douglas H. Everett

    Liked by 1 person

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