So, you want to boost your creativity, calm your blood pressure, melt stress and raise the happiness quotient of your closest relationships? Don't do anything -- just haul out the hammock, pour a tall glass of iced tea (unsweetened, of course) and send your gray cells off on a mini-vacation. You might want to post a "do not disturb" sign nearby so that nobody interrupts your daydreaming, because this state of mind is earning new respect for a slew of surprising benefits:
» Better problem-solving. When Canadian researchers watched brain scans of people as they daydreamed, they discovered that their brain's "executive networks" (the areas that govern decision-making and analysis) lit up like Christmas trees when they weren't thinking about anything in particular. These networks are a combo of high-powered brain areas that work together to find answers to tricky questions. Daydreaming gives the networks a chance to look in on whatever's bugging you or intriguing you. This explains why some of the world's biggest discoveries -- from gravity and the Post-It note to the Barbie doll -- happened when creative types kicked back and took their minds off their everyday problems and chores.
» Closer relationships. Yeah, fuming about how your significant other left a wet towel on the bathroom floor or that your kids (again) forgot to empty the trash cans will never count as true relationship-building experiences. But daydreaming about the good stuff -- things you've done or would like to do together -- produces more of the "glue" that bonds happy marriages and makes friendships and parent-child relationships tight. (Yes, fantasizing about intimate relations with your partner also can be a relationship-enhancer.)
» More compassion. Daydreaming increases compassion and a sense of your connection with others, perhaps because this process exercises parts of your gray matter that get neglected when you're focusing on the hustle-bustle of daily life.
» Less stress. There haven't been official studies about what happens to your blood pressure, heart rate and stress-hormone levels while you daydream, but studies of related types of time off, particularly mindful meditation, have been shown to bust your stress, reduce your blood pressure, ease your pain and bolster your immune system.
These days, we're not coming close to the downtime we need to be our most brilliant selves (it's digital device overload, again). So here are four effective ways to give your brain some needed R&R today:
» Let it all go for 12 minutes. If you're stuck -- can't finish that report or figure out a tricky home repair -- walk around, look out the window, grab a healthy snack. When you come back to the task at hand, you'll be 41 percent more creative.
» Take your mind outside. Letting your brain wander outdoors (while you walk, sit by the lake at a local park, contemplate the trees from your deck, patio or window) seems to amplify the benefits. Soaking up natural sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors is proven to lower blood pressure, soothe stress, reduce levels of the high-anxiety hormone cortisol and calm your heart rate.
» Leave your smartphone at home. For a real brain break, let the world go away. Ringing, beeping, buzzing mobile devices boost stress, break any daydreaming spell and dilute the benefits.
» Feel stuck in real-world worries? Try this easy meditation. Lie down or sit with good posture in a quiet place. Breathe in through your nose slowly for four seconds. As you breathe in, your belly button should be moving away from your spine -- the result of your diaphragm pulling air into your lungs. When your lungs feel nice and full, exhale slowly through an open mouth. This should take about eight seconds. You should notice your belly button pulling toward your spine as you exhale. Let thoughts float away. Continue for 12 minutes. Ahhhh!
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Dr. Mike Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information, go to realage.com.