How to record your dreams effectively and why you should do it in the first place.
Wary of my old habit of setting lofty New Year’s resolutions only to abandon them before spring, I decided this year to take on a more manageable goal: dream journaling. Dreams have always been a powerful source of personal insight for me, yet I have never taken the time to actually physically record their content. Often I find myself telling my friends and family the images and plots that occur in my dreams (whether they like it or not), but I have never taken the process any further. Whether you believe in dream analysis or consider it pseudo-scientific nonsense, there is no doubting the emotional intensity of dreams. They can leave you feeling angry, sad, disturbed, and often confused (the first dream I recorded in my dream journal this year involved me shaking Ringo Starr’s hand, mistakenly calling him Paul, and then kissing him on the cheek to apologize).
In an article published in Psychology Today, Kelly Bulkeley, PhD, argues that “one of the greatest values of a dream journal is the way it grows in power and depth over time.” He stresses the importance of writing as much detail as possible when recording dreams. In the beginning, small details may not seem very important or relevant, but after time you may notice recurring patterns and images that might reflect larger themes in your life.
“In the beginning, small details may not seem very important or relevant, but after time you may notice recurring patterns and images that might reflect larger themes in your life.”
Often it can be difficult to remember dreams let alone record them in detail. Or, you may not dream at all. To help with this, World of Lucid Dreaming suggests establishing what they call a “lucid anchor.” A lucid anchor is an object you can look at every night before bed and every morning when you wake up. When you look at this object, tell yourself ‘I will remember my dreams.’ The idea is to make unconscious connections in your brain between the object and the dream, thereby increasing the likelihood that you will remember it.
Another strategy that helps with remembering is recording the dream first thing when you wake up before it disappears from your thoughts. Also, keeping your eyes closed after a dream can help you to focus on it and recall all the little details.
The dreams you decide to record do not necessarily have to be recent. Bulkeley argues that there is value in recording older dreams, especially those that are markedly poignant or memorable to you. Doing this may even kickstart your dreaming process and lead to better and more vivid dreams in the future.
By the end of 2018, I hope to have an extensive record of my nighttime adventures. I don’t expect any kind of personal or psychological breakthrough. But I do hope to learn something about myself. In the worst case scenario, after this year I will be left with a notebook full of meaningless and irrelevant stories. But honestly, that’s not too far off from where I am now.