Dream journaling can be a uniquely challenging, but equally exciting and fascinating practice. Scientists and laypeople alike study dreams and dreaming, but compared to sleep, the process of dreaming is less clearly understood.
Fortunately, we don’t need to understand our dreams in order to document them. Even if you don’t usually remember dreams, you can begin with the ones you do remember. No detail is too small or fuzzy to open up the intriguing world behind sleeping eyes.
Here are five reasons to get started on your dream journal today:
1. Be the Expert on You
Despite various opinions about what dreams might mean or do for us, our dreams are truly our own in a way that almost nothing else is, so we are uniquely qualified to record them. Your body, home, and even your beliefs may be visible to others, but your dreams are your private property.
Whether you choose to share your dream journal or reflect on it yourself, the process of putting your dreams on the page can be a means of personal discovery. The things that you remember or choose to include in the entry can say something about your interests and priorities.
Here are some questions to try asking yourself:
- Which parts of the dream stood out to me?
- What understanding did I get out of it?
- Was anything confusing?
- Were there recurring elements from other dreams?
- Do I want to record everything possible, or be selective? Why?
Here, self-absorption is a virtue. There is no pressure to perform or to appear a certain way in your dream journal. By looking at these inner worlds, you may even unearth insights about challenges, hopes, fears or memories which can be lost if left unrecorded.
2. Improve Short and Long-Term Memory
Both journaling and dreaming are associated with improvements in episodic and working memory in human beings. Could these parallel benefits be compounded in journaling about dreams?
Synergy, the interaction of processes producing a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects, is essential to both human physiology and psychology. Dream journaling could be an ideal experimental tool to study the combined effect of these processes on memory.
Whether or not there is a synergistic effect when pairing them, there is no doubt that dreams and journaling both help to develop your memory. Starting a dream journal combines the memory-boosting benefits of each of these processes.
3. Ease into Waking Up
Waking up just 5-10 minutes earlier to catalog your dreams before they are overwritten in your memory can actually help you rise more easily by providing tangible closure to your sleep cycle. Instead of solving puzzles or math problems on your alarm app, keeping a daily dream journal can be a pleasant and productive way of transitioning into waking life.
It bears repeating that your dream journal is your time, and you deserve it. Connected as we are, solitude is an increasingly rare commodity. Making the time to set your dreams on the page and reflect on them lets you look within before facing the waking world.
To make the most out of your quiet time, try structuring your entries. Here are some elements to include in your journal which will help you consolidate your dream learning and begin the new day:
- Tracking when you went to sleep the previous night, and when you woke.
- Making daily entries, even if to note that you couldn’t remember a dream.
- Asking questions about your dream on top of your basic reporting.
- Including special events such as a lucid dream or out-of-body experience.
- Reflecting on recurring dreams, nightmares or dream mysteries.
4. Practice Self-Care
Your writing is an extension of yourself. Speaking of this connection between the pen, hand and heart, the poet John Milton had this to say in his Areopagitica:
“For Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that soule was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.”
We can take care of our dream journal by maintaining a special book and storage place dedicated only for our entries. The more we honor our journal, the more likely we’ll be to keep benefiting from it over the years. Taking care of your dream journal is taking care of yourself.
5. Develop Your Personal “Dream Dictionary”
Dream dictionaries tell the reader the meaning of various types of dreams. They’ve ranged in price from anywhere between one to one hundred dollars. Some dreams are begging to be analyzed, but you don’t need to pay a penny to interpret your dreams.
Take the sun.
According to one dream dictionary:
“The sun is a masculine symbol. It is the conscious mind and the intellect. It can be a symbol of the true self and may represent intelligence as distinct from intuition.”
Then, another dream dictionary says:
“The sun is a symbol of vitality. Whether you are energetic or not depends on if the sun in your dream is bright or dim.”
While there may be many common interpretations of dreams, shared across cultures and spanning history, still, your sun may be equally or more influenced by your personal symbology. Again, you’re the expert on you.
If you dream of a sun, and to you, that stands for universality, or for orange juice, or anything else for that matter, that’s perfectly fine. It’s your meaning. There is a dictionary for dream interpretation hidden within you, waiting to be written in the pages of your dream journal.
Hold onto the Dream
Starting a dream journal is a journey, not a destination. You will literally find in it whatever you put in; it’s as limitless as your dreams themselves. But don’t let that wide-open field of possibility overwhelm or paralyze you. Start small, but start now, and take heed of your dreams.