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Dream Journal 101: Starting up a Journal and Remembering Dreams

Andrea has been an online writer for 8+ years. She mostly writes about dating, couples, weddings, travel, interior design, and gardening.


Dream Journaling 101

Before you can interpret a dream, you're going to have to remember it. I'm going to help you learn the basic of starting a dream journal and explain why it will be beneficial to you.

  • Dreams are still a territory in psychology that isn't fully understood.
  • Dream interpretation has been around as long as humans have existed.
  • Sometimes dreams have secrets that can help you in your waking your life.
  • When we're dealing with a tough problem, sometimes when we're relaxed and sleeping our dreams can solve the issue for us.
  • Keeping track of your dreams is good for your memory. This can help you to preserve your memories into old age.
  • Writing down your dreams will make it easier to discuss them with a therapist, counselor, or other person you trust.

Select Your Journal

The first step to having a dream journal is to select a diary, notebook, or other device where you can record dreams. Your dream journal should be a space that is only dedicated to your dreams. This isn't a place where you write about your waking life, your biggest fears, checklists, reminders, or creative pieces of fiction.

You could also start up a dream journal on your computer on a document if you feel more comfortable typing than writing things by hand. You also could make video or audio recordings and store them somewhere.

If you feel more comfortable talking out your dreams than writing them down, that is okay. The nice part about writing them is you can quickly go back and read them and remember the dream.

  • Select a journal or space that seems appropriate for your dreams.
  • Don't announce to others that you're starting a dream journal. People are curious about these things, so you don't want it falling into the wrong hands. You would be giving them the keys to your subconscious.
  • You don't have to write in your dream journal daily. Write in your journal when you feel it is important to record something. There is no reason to feel guilty if you skip a day, a week, or a month.
  • If you are an artist, you may want to draw images from your dreams. Not all of us are so talented with art.
Writing a dream journal is an excellent way to stretch your memory. It's good for recalling not only old dreams but memories from your waking life.

Writing a dream journal is an excellent way to stretch your memory. It's good for recalling not only old dreams but memories from your waking life.

When to Write

In order to get a good handle on your dreams, you need to record them immediately after you wake up. As soon as you start to get into your day, your waking life, the dream will decay or be forgotten.

It's a wise idea to keep the dream journal close to your bed. That way when you wake up the first thing you do is write. You may be surprised at how much you ventured in your dream. At first when you start a dream journal you may only write down a couple of sentences or paragraphs. You may one day write pages upon pages of material.

It's okay to start small when doing a dream journal. This is a skill to be learned, and not one that's generally promoted by society. We're taught to get up at the crack of dawn and start a morning routine and rush into our waking lives. The problem with that is we completely forget the work of what we did at night. It's best if you can wake up with enough time to process, write down, and record your dreams.

You also will need enough time in sleep to get into the REM cycle. REM stands for rapid eye movement. During REM sleep, your eyes move around wildly in different directions. You may want to add some eye drops to your eyes after you wake up to lubricate them — kind of like how you wake up thirsty.

There are roughly 4 cycles to sleep. REM sleep occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. On average, you'll go through about 3 to 5 REM cycles per night. Each episode gets longer and more detailed.

If you're like me, you may wake up a few times before you're fully ready to get up. You may fall right back asleep and start dreaming again. Each phase of sleep is important. It nourishes your body and mind.

REM sleep actually increases brain activity. It promotes learning and creates dreams.

  • Writing in your dream journal is best right after you wake up and start your day.
  • Don't worry about editing what you have to write. Just put the pen to paper until you run out of words. You're not trying to have the best grammar in the world.
  • A full night of sleep promotes long dreams and good sleep hygiene practices.
  • Writing in a dream journal isn't just for fun metaphysical practice, it's actually a smart thing to do to promote good sleep hygiene.

Recurring Themes

When you start to write down your dreams, you will likely notice recurring patterns. Maybe you visit the same places, you talk to the same people, or you do the same things over and over again.

These are some of my common themes:

  • Opening doors repetitively
  • Walking through mazes
  • Talking to dead relatives
  • Giving cups of water to thirsty people
  • Going to giant warehouses
  • Meeting up with my husband
  • Searching relentlessly for items

Studying Dreams

You can interpret the symbols of your dreams for yourself. There are also lots of tools online that go into dream interpretation. Look around on Google and somebody has likely had a similar dream to you and can share some insight. Dream interpretation is often for fun and entertainment. Not every dream you have is meant to be taken seriously.

Many of the dreams you have are about something you feel is unfulfilled and that you haven't resolved yet. Maybe your waking mind can't handle it. In dreams, we have the ability to do things we can't in our plain ole' conscious.

You don't have to write an impressive amount of prose when you start a dream journal. Just put one word down at a time.

You don't have to write an impressive amount of prose when you start a dream journal. Just put one word down at a time.

Lucid Dreaming

One of the first big steps to take if you want to learn how to lucid dream is dream journaling. It will take time, but if you write down your dreams and start to remember them better, your dreams will become more clear. You will start to realize more often that you're in a dream. You'll eventually start lucid dreaming.

As you learn to recognize your dreams from your waking life, you'll learn how to assert yourself. You then can make choices about what you want to happen. You can also stay in your dreams longer.

  • Sometimes you will not be able to take control of your dreams no matter how much you want to control them. You'll be frustrated that you're aware of your dreams but can't manage them. You also may go in and out of understanding that you're in a dream. The scenery and obstacles may change abruptly and you may easily forget you're in a dream.
  • Often when we recognize we're in a dream we wake up.
  • Sometimes lucid dreaming is scary. You may get frustrated when you can't wake up and are trying to get out of something unpleasant. You may want to look up information on sleep paralysis, a topic I'm not covering in this hub.
  • You gain mental strength as you age. What scared you when you were a child doesn't scare you the same way as an adult.
  • Writing a dream journal will help you conquer dreams and introduce you to new fears to conquer.

Lucid dreaming, just like writing in a dream journal, takes practice. Usually people don't have a good handle on these things straight from the start.

What's exciting is having a better grasp on your dreams can help you do things you never could in real life: like have conversations with dead people, talk to ex-partners, or have conversations with animals.

Dreams can be turned into virtual reality video games. You could live in a cartoon. You can have the ability to speak different languages (likely an illusion), or you could compose some of the most beautiful music imaginable.

Dreams are a place where you don't have to worry about being judged. You can be as creative as you want. You can be as boring as you want. You can do anything and see and feel the consequences of it. That's pretty incredible.

Having Better Memory

Memory isn't infallible. It can get lost. Aging and trauma can make it harder to access. Recording your dreams can help you stretch this part of yourself. It will help you to not only remember what happens when you fall asleep but also your waking life.

When you record your dreams, you'll have the ability to revisit them. When you read your dreams, try to visualize them again. Writing down your dreams in a journal is a way of videotaping them. It gives you the chance to hit the play button, hit rewind, or fast forward.

Here are some items you should look out for when writing down your dreams:

  • People that you can remember, especially those who have names.
  • Any bright colors or shapes that stand out.
  • Any significant events that took place.
  • Sounds and music.
  • Smells.
  • Animals.
  • Any lights that stood out. Did you turn off or on any lights?
  • Any words you used to help you get out of a dream.
  • Look for patterns and repetitive factors.

© 2021 Andrea Lawrence


Andrea Lawrence (author) from Chicago on February 26, 2021:

You definitely should! You might be surprised by your creativity and the therapeutic process of it all.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on February 26, 2021:

I've never kept a dream journal before, but I really should as I have loads of weird dreams lol.

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