Research aimed at discovering how ‘Eureka moments’ are triggered and how these moments of clarity and insight differ from typical methodical reasoning has found that not only are epiphanies more likely when we’re daydreaming, but our state of mind before we tackle a problem is also crucial.
They materialize without warning, often through an unconscious shift in mental perspective that can abruptly alter how we perceive a problem. […] In fact, our brain may be most actively engaged when our mind is wandering and we’ve actually lost track of our thoughts, a new brain-scanning study suggests. “Solving a problem with insight is fundamentally different from solving a problem analytically”.
[…] Even before we are presented with a problem, our state of mind can affect whether or not we will likely resort to insightful thinking. People in a positive mood were more likely to experience an insight.
Another finding that fascinated me was that by monitoring the brain waves of the participants, researchers could predict who would solve a problem through insight up to eight seconds before the answer actually materialised consciously.
One lesson to remember from the research: the wandering, daydreaming mind is a crucial and important mental state where our brains are unusually active.