Whenever I’m watching the news on TV, I usually find the “health news” to be little more than a time-filler, something to take up a minute or two in between entertainment/celebrity stories and the weather report. But this study, reported in the media about two weeks ago, piqued my interest.
daydreaming was not good for people’s moods: Volunteers were unhappier when their thoughts were elsewhere. Statistical tests showed that mind-wandering earlier in the day correlated with a poorer mood later in the day, but not vice versa, suggesting that unhappiness with their current activity wasn’t prompting people to mentally escape. Instead, their wandering minds were the cause of their gloom. Mental drifting was a downer for subjects during even the dullest activities, like cleaning, the researchers found. “I’m sure there are some situations where mind-wandering can be helpful,” says Killingsworth. But based on these results, those “are probably pretty rare.”
Over the past few weeks, I’d found myself thinking about this kind of thing quite often. I’ve been a chronic daydreamer ever since I was very young, a fact that’s no doubt played a big part in shaping my mind and personality into what it is today. I’m frequently bored and uninterested in my tasks at work, and often find daydreaming to be my only escape from the mundane reality of it all. I’m also taking a difficult college class in my spare time, and often find my study sessions interrupted by spontaneous, seemingly unprovoked daydreams. I’ll be enrolled in a full-time program next year with a significantly heavier course load. Will I be able to concentrate on my studies, or at the end of the day, am I just too much of a daydreamer to take on so many challenging responsibilities?
Also, though I don’t want to go too deep into it right now (or sound like I’m fishing for sympathy), I suffer from depression and have been in counseling for more than a year now. This is something I’ve dealt with for a long time and only recently have I felt the least bit ready to try to understand, much less actually overcome. Is there any connection between my depression and my tendency to let my mind wander at will so often? I’ve been told, and also come to realize on my own, that I need to focus on “living in the moment.” This comes easier to some people than others.
But if you’re going to daydream, you might as well daydream about something you enjoy, right? I don’t get to watch anime every day, but I know I think about it on a daily basis. So much so that I, like many anime fans, eventually decided to start a blog (mostly) about it. I could spend all day trying to pin down just why I’m so drawn to anime or why it “works” so effectively on me. Why do I like anime? There’s probably no simple answer to that question, and even if there were, it would be a subject for another blog entry. It’s enough for now to say that I’ve been positively hooked on it for about five years now, and that I think about it quite often. When I’m at home, when I’m at work, when I’m in the car, or even when I’m falling asleep at night. I doubt that I’m truly “obsessed” with it; I reach my limits when trying to “marathon” a series after a measly four or five episodes, I haven’t touched my half-finished AMV in at least 3 months, and my anime-related updates here have slowed to a mere trickle as of late. But, anime is never very far from my mind, whether it’s thoughts of a recent episode that I watched, a blog entry I just read, or a favorite character. What does this mean for myself, or for anyone else who frequently thinks about anime? And what effect does it have on us?
Within the realm of today’s visual arts (film, television, comics, etc.), anime presents us with some of the most inventive, appealing, and inviting fictional worlds for viewers to immerse themselves within. Is it any wonder that so many of us are so mentally drawn to these same worlds long after we’ve stepped away from the screen? Thinking about anime, whether it’s of the critical kind or just lazy daydreaming, is a routine activity for many of us. But is thinking about fictional worlds and characters, to the extent that most “anime fans” tend to do, really a healthy activity? Does daydreaming about anime really make us happy? Or, when we think about the colorful and fantastic worlds of our favorite anime, does it just lead us to feel progressively less and less satisfied with the reality we’ve been given?
What is daydreaming? Making plans for the future and thinking about the past, for sure. But in general, thinking about anything at all that isn’t happening at the moment. When we think about anime, we devote our mental energies to recalling and exploring worlds we can never visit, characters we can never meet, and events we can never experience or affect. Well, so it goes with all fiction, you say. Furthermore, “I write fanfiction,” you might counter. “I cosplay and blog and make AMVs. Of course I interact with anime. It’s not a completely passive experience.” It’s not when you’re actually in the habit of creating and sharing those passions. But in between your anime viewing and your other anime-related hobbies, does thinking about anime really differ from daydreaming, or the effects it might ultimately have on one’s mood?
This is hardly anything to get worked up about, just something I’ve been thinking about and wanted to explore.