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date: 21 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Spontaneous thought has recently been defined as a state of reduced constraints on the mind, and it encompasses a range of experiences such as mind-wandering, day and night dreaming, creative idea generation, and others. While its day-to-day benefits have been explored for some time, its clinical implications have been understudied, and for the most part have been limited to potential detrimental effects on mood. We propose that spontaneous thought has a wider variety of clinical effects, as well as a number of potential therapeutic benefits—affording the opportunity to address suppressed or repressed material, facilitating therapeutic insights, and promoting general relaxation. Its unconstrained mode may not be without clinical risks, however. Within literature discussing meditation, sleep, relaxation, and sensory deprivation—activities that promote unconstrained attention—evidence suggests that some individuals may become destabilized, or face a worsening of symptoms in some circumstances. More research needs to be done to clarify the mediating factors that could result in these divergent outcomes.

Keywords: spontaneous thought, unconstrained attention, clinical risks, therapeutic benefits, meditation, sleep, sensory deprivation, relaxation

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