So you've decided to start a dream journal. Get ready to change your life. And yes, I'm being totally serious. Maybe you've read our articles on the subject, a friend convinced you to try it, or you're just interested in paying a little closer attention to your dreams. In any case, you're here, you're ready to start writing and you're about to change your life.
Wow...So now what?
On the basic level, all you need to do is begin by writing down your dreams in as much detail as you can remember as soon as you wake up. Simple enough. This in itself is tremendously beneficial for getting you tuned in to the intuitive power of your dreaming mind.
However, if you're interested in diving deeper into that mysterious dimension, there are plenty of ways to add to your dream journaling practice and get even more out of the experience!
Draw Your Dreams
If your first thought upon reading the heading is "but I can't draw," fear not! The best thing I've ever drawn in my entire life was a cartoon snail back in the 6th grade; beyond that, stick figures are about as good as it gets for me.
But by drawing in your dream journal, whether through detailed sketches or crude cave drawings like mine, you can really unlock the visual memory of your dreams that a verbal description might not be capable of. And since dreams are primarily visual anyway, recording the visual impressions of a dream can add an important layer to your description and help to create a more complete record that you can return to. You might even notice something in your drawing that you didn't consciously notice in the dream!
After your next dream, try drawing the primary image of the dream. This can be an image that appeared frequently in the dream, the main character or feature, or simply the most vivid and striking image. Dream theorist Ernest Hartmann suggested in his Contemporary Theory of Dreaming that all dreams come down to a singular image that carries the emotional weight or significance of the dream.
If that doesn't quite work for you, try drawing an abstract picture of the energy or feeling of the dream or even just the physical place(s) where the dream took place. And if you're super ambitious, go for all three!
Dream interpretation has been a popular topic for centuries, and can often be the most fun part of dreaming. After you write and/or draw out your dreaming experience, take a few minutes to think about what the dream might mean to you.
This is where dream symbols become useful to identify. By jotting down a few of the primary symbols (objects, people, places... so, nouns, basically) you can find specific meaning/ origins of your dream that often have interesting correlations to your life, even if just on an emotional level. There are also plenty of dream symbol dictionaries on the Internet that can sometime help. You might be surprised how meaningful a strange or seemingly nonsensical dream can turn out to be.
Change Your Routine
Dream journaling is a practice like any other and requires self-discipline and time. Build it into your night and morning routines - spend a few minutes before you go to sleep setting an intention for your dreams each night, and then set your alarm ten or fifteen minutes early and dedicate the very first part of your day to journaling.
Your lifestyle during the day can also be altered slightly to enhance your dreaming; check out our article "5 Foods that Can Cause Dreaming and Improve REM Sleep".
For Lucid Dreaming
Dream journaling is generally accepted as one of the most important and time-tested techniques for lucid dream induction! And just FYI, in case you don't know what a lucid dream is - this is a dream in which you know that you are dreaming. These dreams are often sought after because you can take control of the dream and experience truly amazing things through the tremendous power of your imagination.
Through dream journaling, you can keep track of your progress through specific dreams, the degree of lucidity you experienced in each successive dream, and record your ideas for future dreaming actities you'd like to try. Perhaps you'd like to visit the moon! In fact, I better write that one down.
Really though, before your next lucid dream, try writing out a set of goals. The next morning, revisit that list and make a note of which goals you accomplished, which ones you didn't, and any new ideas or goals for the next dream.
Don't Overthink It!
While many dreams can be full of meaning and ripe for interpretation, everyone has super weird dreams that seem to mean absolutely nothing. However, in retrospect, you can often untangle amazing information from your dreams as you journey further from them through time. For this reason, it's useful to write down as many dreams as you can. Just don't worry if you can't figure one out right away! Our brains are complex and mysterious, and to be totally honestly, sometimes I dream things like that I'm bowling with George Washington and I truly don't think it has any significance to my life whatsoever. (He totally cheated, for the record.)
Ultimately, giving your dreams this kind of detailed attention will train your brain to have more vivid and detailed dreams, to recall them for longer periods of time, and to have even more active and involved lucid dreaming experiences. As you continue you explore your dreams more and more, I can promise you that you will soon be amazed by the incredible intuition of your subconscious mind, and will find all kinds of interesting applications to your daily life that come directly from dreams, which truly can change your life.
So dive in!
Oh, and this just in... The Dream Atlas just barely launched on Kickstarter and is off to a great start! This is the perfect tool for anyone who is seeking to engage with their dreams more deeply. Check it out! Early bird pricing is going on right now.