Everyone daydreams from time to time. It may seem like an easy escape from boredom, but you may be better off focusing on the moment, no matter how mundane. Research has shown that people are less happy when their minds wander, compared to when they focus on reality, which raises the question: How much daydreaming is too much?

According to “happiness researcher” Dr. Matt Killingsworth at Harvard University, in a recent interview with Smithsonian, the wandering mind is less happy than the present mind because daydreaming can blunt the enjoyment of what we’re doing.

“I’ve failed to find any objective circumstances so bad that when people are in their heads they’re actually feeling better,” Killingsworth told Smithsonian. “In every case they’re actually surprisingly happier being in that moment, on average.”

Read: Maladaptive Daydreaming — What Is It?

This being said, the odd daydream likely won’t likely do much damage. In fact, according to modern psychology, it’s actually a sign of a healthy and creative mind, and up to 96 percent of adults do it on a regular basis, Psychology Today reported. However, too much of this can have consequences. For example, according to the Wall Street Journal, while the average individual daydreams about 16 percent of the time, "maladaptive" daydreamers engage in daydreaming for more than half of their waking hours. This type of daydreaming could be classified as an actual mental health condition as it is both addictive and often detrimental to the dreamer’s quality of life. Many maladaptive daydreamers cite that they prefer their daydreams over reality, and will choose to stay home and daydream rather than to go out and socialize.

Based on Killingsworth’s studies, all this time spent daydreaming may have negative effects on dreamer’s mental health. His research suggests that negative moods may be the result of, not the cause of, daydreaming, New York Magazine reported. In other words, we don’t daydream because we are in a bad mood, but rather we are in a bad mood because we spent so much time daydreaming.

All in all, scientists still aren’t sure exactly what happens to the brain when we daydream, although Psychology Today reported that it may help to give our brains a workout, thus making them ready to spring into action when we need to attend to an outside stimulus. While daydreaming may not be preventable all the time, when you can help it, try and enjoy the moment, no matter how boring it may be.

Source: Killingsworth AM, Gilbert DT. A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind. Science. 2010

See Also:

Maladaptive Daydreaming Top Triggers And Risk Factors

What Dreams Mean And What They Say About You, Based On Science