How and Why You Should Start a Dream Journal

Dreams have baffled, intrigued and inspired us for millennia. And while a ton of research has been dedicated to them, there is still very little we concretely know about their function and importance.

It is a widely held belief, however, that our dreams are portals into our sub conscious mind, the part of our brain that is responsible for holding the deeply rooted (but often unknown to us) beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us.

Many people believe that by understanding your dreams, you can make your sub conscious well, conscious, and gain insight that can help you in your ever day life. Also, when you’re dreaming, your rational mind is at rest and your creative mind is able to express itself more freely, without the confines of logic and “realistic-ness” that we usually box it in with. In an article published on Medium, writer Silvia Bastos explains the power of our dreams like this:

“In our dreams, the rational part of our brain stops dominating, creating a place where our creative mind can finally express itself after our thinking-oriented waking routines. In other words, our dreams allow us to directly tackle our most authentic source of inspiration, by giving us access to the deepest parts of our creative identity.”

One of the most popular ways to learn from and interpret your dreams is by keeping a dream journal. Recording our dreams in a dream journal helps us to tap in a wealth of creativity and awareness held in our mind that we may not otherwise be aware of.

Dream educator Bobbie Ann Pimm, author of Notes from a Dreamer ... on Dreaming: A Personal Journey in Dream Interpretation, has similar thoughts on the insights that a dream journal can provide:

"While you're sleeping, your dreams are telling you all you need to know to live a happy and fulfilling life,” she says. “They deal with your emotions, relationships, career, fears, needs, desires, aspirations, spirit ... they reflect everything you are and everything that you can be. Keeping a dream journal is the best way to start learning from your dreams!"

There aren’t any hard and fast rules on how to keep a journal, but the following tips can help you get started.

Write as soon as you wake up.

Mornings can be hectic, and we understand the urge to get your day started with the promise to write down your dreams later on in the day when you have more time. You may have noticed, however, that just minutes after waking up, the details of your dreams can go from clear to completely forgotten. To accurately capture the details and essence of your dreams, it’s important to record them as soon as you wake up- even a few minutes to go brush your teeth or get some water can seriously impede the information you remember.

Do it every day.

Recording your dreams sporadically isn’t nearly as effective as committing to recording them daily. Your brain will begin to get used to the practice, and you’ll likely find that you have a much easier time remembering the details and connecting to the deeper meaning.

In an article for Psychology Today, psychologist of religion and director of the Sleep and Dream Database Kelly Bulkeley says,“One of the greatest values of a dream journal is the way it grows in power and depth over time. The ever-expanding pool of dreaming experience creates an evolving network of meaningful connections.” 

Record not just the facts, but also your feelings.

Sometimes, the most important aspects of a dream aren’t specifically what happened but rather how you felt in the dream. Capture any feelings and emotions you remember without judging them as right or wrong.

Don’t rely on dream dictionaries.

There are a multitude of both printed and online dream dictionaries, which offer interpretations of different objects and scenarios in dreams. While these may provide some insight, they are also just very general interpretations and can’t take into account your own personal experiences and perspectives. For example, a snake may have general dream symbolism, but maybe through personal experiences or beliefs, they mean or represent something very different to you. The important thing is to trust your own feelings and ideas that come up around the contents of your dreams before turning to an outside resource.

Don’t worry too much about details.

Don’t get bogged down by trying to remember every detail of the dream- the things that really jump out at you are likely what is most important anyway. And if you wake up with only a faint memory or wisp of emotion from your dreams, just start writing on that- you may be surprised at how many details start flooding in as you write.

Give your dream a title.

Jayne Gackenbach, a dream researcher at MacEwan University, recommends giving your dream a title when writing about it. This helps you to get clear on the overall theme and feeling of the dream and may help you to both understand it better and recognize patterns with other dreams.

Choose your own method.

Gackenbach also says you don’t necessarily need to write your journal entry. If there is another way that you prefer to capture it, such as drawing, then that can work just as effectively. Because this is a practice that works with your creative and sub conscious mind, you’ll be most effective if you’re working in a medium that clicks with you.

Notice patterns.

Rather than just looking at your dreams in isolation, keep an eye out for patterns and reoccurring themes. Becoming aware of what your brain is repeatedly showing you can be very eye opening!

Don’t put too much pressure on it.

If you approach this practice as a way to tap into your highest level of creativity or unearth and solve all of the sub conscious issues that may be affecting you, you’ll likely be disappointed. Putting too much pressure on the practice will turn it into a chore and will make both you and the process feel like a failure. Instead, just enjoy the practice without expectations and see what comes out of it.

Follow up with free writing.

After you finish recording your dream and your feelings surrounding it, allow yourself a few minutes to free write. This means unfiltered writing time in which you just let your pen flow and don’t censor anything that comes out. This is another amazing way of connecting with the often-hidden layers of your consciousness and letting new ideas, inspirations, and realizations come to the surface. It is often very cathartic as well!

Recording your dreams can be a fun and therapeutic way of gaining insight from your sub conscious mind and connecting with your creative side. As Bulkeley says, “keeping a dream journal is a priceless gift to your future self.” We hope these tips help you get started with your own dream journal!

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