Have you ever woken up from a bizarre dream, only to forget what happened? Have you ever wanted to know what these odd actions, emotions, and experiences in dreams mean?
Dream journaling can be a way to understand why you’re dreaming the things you are and a way to document these unique stories past the morning time.
To test the benefits of dream journaling, I decided to follow a dream expert’s guide to document my dreams every day for a week.
What are Dreams?
Dreams tend to be reactions and commentaries on what happened to you during the day. Lauri Lowenberg, a Certified Dream Analyst, says that dreams showcase everything in your life (like relationships and behaviors) from a different perspective.
She explains that dreams capture your subconscious mind, which is constantly guiding, advising, and warning. The subconscious side of your mind speaks to you the loudest when you’re dreaming.
Seeing your dreams as your thoughts and reactions about real-life problems and experiences might even be able to improve your problem-solving, relationships, and more.
What is Dream Journaling?
Dream journaling is when you document your dreams in a notebook or diary, relatively soon after waking up.
Many people believe that dreams have a deeper meaning than their surface value. This can include showcasing your subconscious desires or exposing your true emotions to a problem you are facing.
By documenting your dreams in detail, you may be able to discover what your mind is trying to tell you or just remember your dreams for later recall.
What to Pay Attention to in Dreams
“I would say the most important elements of a dream are: what is said in the dream, what emotion you feel in the dream, and what you think to yourself while in the dream,” Lauri says.
She recommends focusing on these areas because they’ll typically make sense in the context of your real life. When you connect these elements to issues in your life, you can begin to use your insights to improve in areas you may or may not have known you needed to address. This is because you can start to listen to the areas your mind is trying to address.
“Dreaming serves many purposes, but I have found — in my 27 years of research and experience — that the main purpose of dreaming is to problem solve,” Lauri says.
What are the Benefits of Dream Journaling?
There are many benefits of dream journaling stated on the internet, but we asked a dream analyst to tell us the most important. Lauri listed these four benefits to dream journaling: remembering your dreams, personal growth, creativity, problem-solving, and recognizing patterns of behavior.
Remembering your Dreams
“Regularly recording your dreams helps you become more attuned to them, making it easier to remember and understand your dreams over time,” she says.
There are many components working against us to remember our dreams. For example, dreams mostly occur during REM sleep, during which MCH cells are activated. It is believed that the activation of these cells may prevent dreams from being stored in the hippocampus, which means they can be quickly forgotten.
Additionally, most people forget most of their dreams within just 10 minutes of waking up. If you want a chance of remembering your dreams against all these variables, it is a great idea to start documenting them.
“Understanding your dreams can lead to personal growth and self-discovery, fostering a better understanding of your desires, fears, aspirations, and relationships,” she says.
Dreams can help you to reflect on yourself to understand and gain insights into your emotions, thoughts, and subconscious mind. Once you begin documenting your dreams, you can figure out how the problems you experience at night relate to your day.
Creativity and Problem-Solving
“Dreams can be a source of creative ideas and innovative solutions,” Lauri says.
After documenting many dreams, you can look back over your dream journal to inspire creative thinking and new perspectives. Sometimes I think back on my dreams and believe that they would make a great movie. Perhaps you can find a way to tap into your subconscious mind to create something unique.
Recognize Patterns of Behavior
“Tracking recurring symbols and patterns in your dreams will reveal underlying thought and behavior patterns in your real life. Being able to recognize them, as well as what causes them helps you to correct them and free yourself from stagnation in various areas of your life.”
It is easy to notice behaviors that you exhibit when you are dreaming and almost experiencing them from a third-person perspective. Once you acknowledge these behaviors, you can work to change them or just be aware that you are inclined to act in certain ways in specific situations.
How to Dream Journal
Lauri breaks down her recommended process of dream journaling in this TikTok video that I am following directly for a week. There are three steps to follow to prepare yourself to begin documenting.
1. Get a Spiral Notebook
Lauri says it’s best to keep your day and dream journal within the same book. She said this is important because of the connection between the two. Dreams show honestly what you experienced that day, such as what you accomplished or struggled with.
“I like to consider day and dream journaling as working as a partner with your subconscious mind,” Lauri says.
A spiral notebook is recommended because you are going to be documenting both your day and your dreams side by side. The layout of this notebook allows you to see and acknowledge your days while recording your dreams.
2. Set Up the “My Day” Section
On the left page, you are going to document your day. Before you go to sleep, Lauri recommends sitting in bed and reflecting on a few components of your day.
She said that you should write about what happened, significant conversations, what was on your mind the most, and outstanding emotions. The assumption is that these components of your day may be weighing on you more than you know and impacting your dreams at night.
3. Set Up the “My Dreams” Section
On the right page of the spiral notebook, you are going to write about your dreams. Lauri is very specific about how you write down your dreams in the morning. She recommends that you write down your dreams right when you wake up, in the same position you woke up in, because this is the position you were just dreaming in.
In the “My Dreams” section, you are going to recount your dream including all details, what was said, what you thought, and any outstanding emotions.
Dream Journaling Every Night For a Week
I followed Lauri’s advice on keeping a single journal to document both my days and my dreams, to visualize the impact one might have on the other.
Overall, this experience was very enlightening. I believe I was able to see and understand the weight of parts of my day crossing over to my dreams. However, the ease with which dreams are forgotten is something you need to pay attention to if you wish to start dream journaling.
Record Dreams ASAP
To be honest, I had a bit of trouble remembering to write down my dreams in the mornings because it is not a habit I have had before. There was one morning when I wanted to make a coffee before I tried to write down my dreams, and I had already completely forgotten my dreams.
I wanted to be transparent in this hiccup, so that if you try to dream journal, that you know the importance of writing down your dreams as soon as you wake up. It is also very easy and normal to forget your dreams, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t remember.
Understand Significant Parts of Day
While paying attention to my days and my dreams, I became aware of all the overlap and its significance. When people, emotions, and actions from my days show up in my dream, it is almost a signal that I have something deeper going on there.
For example, I was moving out of my apartment this week and stressing a bit about moving into my next housing. Once I started dream journaling, I saw how this stress directly manifested in my dreams. I would dream that I was constantly packing or unpacking in situations where I felt uneasy and awkward.
This moving dream showed me that I am a lot more nervous and stressed than I thought. There were countless more overlaps that I documented during this week, that I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t dream journaling.
Dream journaling is a great tool to identify and process problems in relationships, emotions, behaviors, and more. You may be aware of certain issues in your life that you want to work on, but sometimes you don’t always know areas where you could improve.
Since dreams are created by your subconscious mind, they can help reveal your deepest thoughts and feelings on events in your life. Once you listen to your dreams and discover what they are trying to tell you, dream journaling can help you to problem-solve.
Documenting your dreams can also help you remember them. It can be interesting to look back at the crazy and bizarre things your brain created for entertainment or creative thinking.
After trying dream journaling every day for a week, I definitely saw the benefits and appreciated my dreams more.
- Izawa S, et al. (2019). REM sleep-active MCH neurons are involved in forgetting hippocampus-dependent memories. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7378274/
- Lowenberg, L. (2023). Personal Interview
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