The pandemic has changed our inner mental lives

Many feel the pandemic changed not just our everyday lives, but also our inner mental lives.

There has been talk of a mental health pandemic and of lockdown brain fog when we are awake, as well as reports of more frequent, vivid, and bizarre dreams when we are asleep.

We think of our waking and dream lives as separate, but it is striking how deeply they are linked. Spontaneous thought, or mind wandering, occupies up to 50% of wakefulness.

Our thoughts and attention frequently drift away from what we are doing and what is happening in our surroundings, with one thought following another along an associative trajectory.

Spontaneous thoughts and experiences are also pervasive in sleep. The clearest example is dreaming, described as an intensified form of the mind wandering that happens when we are awake.

Attention to our inner lives may be amplified at a time when control over our everyday lives is elusive.

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