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#MHAM #MHAMBC Day 20 daydreaming

Day 20 of migraine awareness month In one of his poems, Edgar Allen Poe wrote, “Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” Are your dreams different in the day and the night? What does this poem say to you that might be helpful to patients?

 The quote suggests that dreamers who dream while awake have more advantages than those who just dream while asleep. Daydreaming is an act of the imagination and invoking our curiosity. An insomniac though would question how he phrased that given we are indeed awake at night. Just saying. Lot of night time hours spent awake here. However I am a dreamer. A daydreamer. I enjoy the act of it. The imagination exercise. Which enables a person to stretch their imagination in any direction and to even work things out before they happen.

And I use my imagination in my hobby of writing fantasy fiction novels. To me characters, stories and worlds exist in my mind. I use it as a form of pain distraction and escapism I suppose. So I enjoy the act of daydreaming a great deal. I also daydream when I am trying to fall asleep to be honest. It is a way to not think about stressful things while trying to sleep, so instead I think about a story I am writing.

However, I also enjoy the dreams I have at night. I like the fact my subconscious has control of the storyline and what it comes up with. Although clearly it is not a conscious act. It is not something we can use to our benefit. Even lucid dreaming has its limits. With daydreaming we can enact certain scenarios different ways and play out conversations different ways in order to prepare ourselves for situations. We can imagine our victory over a a-hole boss, imagining the perfect conversation to react to their stigma. Yay!

Everybody daydreams. Often it is a form of stress reduction sort of dreams. Or wish fulfillment. Or memories. Or if you are a creative writer, diving into a world of your own creation and having imaginary conversations between your characters. So a vast majority of us daydream but how often, the vividness and even the content of those daydreams may say something about our satisfaction with life. And if it is true that your inner world is of a content that creates dissatisfaction then we are able to change that content. We can choose to daydream about people close to us or our spouse for example.

scientists were able to pinpoint this set of specific brain structures which we now know as the brain’s “default network.”  This network links parts of the frontal cortex, the limbic system, and several other cortical areas involved in sensory experiences.  While active, the default network turns itself on and generates its own stimulation.  The technical term for such a product of the default network is “stimulus independent thought,” a thought about something other than events that originate from the outside environment.  In common speech, stimulus independent thoughts make up fantasies and daydream, the stuff of mind wandering.  

Apart from entertaining us when we’re bored, what does the default network do for us?  Some researchers propose that it’s actually a type of watchdog or sentinel, ready to spring into action when we need to attend to an outside stimulus.  However, the preponderance of evidence suggests that the default network is there to help us explore our inner experiences (Buckner et al., 2008).  Specifically, we engage our default network when we’re thinking about our past experiences, imagining an event that might take place in the future, trying to understand what other people are thinking, and assisting us in making moral decisions.  

It seems, then, that our default network makes daydreaming possible.  The effect of daydreaming on our psyche may depend, furthermore, on the nature of our daydreams. In a series of questionnaire studies, York University psychologist Raymond Mar and associates (2012) asked men and women ranging from 18 to 85 to report on the frequency and vividness of their daydreams as well as their life satisfaction, levels of loneliness, and social support. For men, the more frequent their daydreams, the lower their life satisfaction. For women, vividness but not frequency was related to lower life satisfaction. For both genders, people who daydreamed about their close family and friends reported higher levels of life satisfaction. Those who daydreamed about romantic partners that they didn’t currently have (past or potential), strangers, or fictional characters were lonelier, had less lower social support, and tended to have lower life satisfaction.

Maybe then what we daydream about can tell us a little about the content of our lives. Where our dissatisfaction lies. And if it can tell us where our dissatisfaction lies it can perhaps guide us to what we might want to change or adjust in our lives. With chronic illness the content of our daydreams may express a great deal of desires we may feel we cannot ever have, but to some extent we can. If we want to go on a vacation it can be a small, simple one. If we desire to socialize more it can be just a matter of adding short little excursions into the world with people we are comfortable with. 
Why do we daydream anyway? Well apparently it is a set in function of the brain of this default network.

Their results showed the highest agreement between brain structure and brain function in areas forming part of the “default mode network“, which is associated with daydreaming, imagination, and self-referential thought. “In comparison to other networks, the default mode network uses the most direct anatomical connections. We think that neuronal activity is automatically directed to level off at this network whenever there are no external influences on the brain,” says Andreas Horn, lead author of the study and researcher in the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.  

Living up to its name, the default mode network seems to become active in the absence of external influences. In other words, the anatomical structure of the brain seems to have a built-in autopilot setting. It should not, however, be confused with an idle state. On the contrary, daydreaming, imagination, and self-referential thought are complex tasks for the brain.
“Our findings suggest that the structural architecture of the brain ensures that it automatically switches to something useful when it is not being used for other activities,” says Andreas Horn. “But the brain only stays on autopilot until an external stimulus causes activity in another network, putting an end to the daydreaming. A buzzing fly, a loud bang in the distance, or focused concentration on a text, for example.”

Twitter: nikki_Albert

Day #1 post “What would you do if your dream of a totally pain- and symptom-free life, came true?”
Day #2 post "Bed of Clouds poem to ponder"
Day #3 post "Recurrent dreams"
Day #4 post  "Still I Rise"
Day #5 post "Monsters"
Day #6 post "Ways to raise awareness."
Day #7 post "What I do for Awareness"
Day #8 post "Do not forget to live"
Day #9 post "What fear can teach us."
Day #10 post  "Twilight is the best light."
Day #11 post "dream a little dream"
Day #12 post "Who moved my cheese"
Day #13 post "Faces of Migraine"
Day 14 post "Mulan"
Day #15 post "only human"
Day #16 post "perspective is everything."
Day #17 post "imagine a treatment"
Day #18 post "I dreamed a dream video"
Day #19 post "IF poem"

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