“My most creative moments come when my brain is allowed to rest,” says Megan King, a graphic designer for the architecture and engineering firm exp Global Inc. As a designer, King is expected to come up with new, compelling ideas all the time. “Sometimes I’ll spend all day working on a project and I’ll feel that I never quite created something that I’m really happy with,” King says. “I’ll get a good night’s sleep and [the next day], get something done in 15 minutes that is more innovative.”
But “I’m addicted to my smartphone,” she says.
She’s not alone. According to Nielsen, Americans spend 10.5 hours a day consuming media. And UK residents are close behind at almost 10 hours a day, according to eMarketer. This extended screen time has made some of us uncomfortable sitting alone with our own thoughts. Scientists conducted a study in which they gave people the option of either sitting alone with no distractions for a period of 6–15 minutes or enduring a mild electric shock. Many people chose the shock.
When your eyes are on your phone, your mind is in a very different state than when it’s daydreaming.
Over years of studies, researchers found that our brain has two separate attention systems, says Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia — an external one and an internal one. The internal attention system, which is activated during daydreaming, is called the default network.