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Why Now Is the Right Time to Start a Dream Journal

Woman writing down her dreams in a dream journal.
Wayhome Studio/Shutterstock

Quarantines and social distancing have impacted millions of people around the world directly and indirectly. It’s a strange time, and people are having strange dreams—so it might just be the perfect time to write them down.

Between the stress, social isolation, and vivid dreams, it’s a great time to start working on habits that cultivate reflection and stress reduction. One great habit to start right now is dream journaling. Here’s what it is, how it works, and why now is the perfect time to get started.

What Is Dream Journaling?

Dream journaling is exactly as it sounds: taking the time to write down your dreams upon waking up. However, this simple practice comes with some fascinating hidden benefits.

In the past, of course, people always wrote their dream journals longhand. However, you can now use an app for your dream journal if you prefer—check out Lucidity or Dream Journal Ultimate. That said, there are some benefits to writing things down by hand, so you may want to try keeping your journal in a bedside notebook to see how it compares to the app.

Some approaches to dream journaling involve setting alarms to wake you up for a middle-of-the-night entry. However, the easy and fun way to do it is simply to write a dream journal entry every morning when you wake up. (Yes, before you check your email.) If you happen to wake up from a fascinating dream in the middle of the night, of course, that can be a bonus entry.

The Benefits of Dream Journaling Through the Quarantine

Dream journaling is a cool exercise at any time—but it’s especially valuable when so many of us are stuck at home with our thoughts and fears. Here are the benefits you can access if you start your dream journal now.

Remember Your Dreams Better

Remembering your dreams is a fun, yet elusive experience. An interesting dream makes for a great conversation starter, an opportunity for self-reflection, or an inspiration for a new piece of art. However, you can’t get any of these benefits if you can’t remember your dreams.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that dream journaling makes it easier to remember your dreams, which alone makes the idea worth a try.

Recognize Thought Patterns

When you’re bored, stressed, or scared, it’s easy for your thoughts to devolve into a cycle of harmful patterns. And even in the best of times, finding patterns in your thinking can help you understand yourself better.

Many times, patterns that show up when you’re awake will also appear in your dreams. Seeing what’s going on in your brain when you’re not awake might help you make sense of the thoughts you have during the day.

Figure Out Your Emotions

Just like thoughts, feelings also work their way into our dreams. While researchers aren’t quite clear on why we dream, many believe that our dreams serve to help us work through challenging thoughts and emotions. In times of emotional stress, like a pandemic, recording your dreams can be an especially good way to detangle your feelings.

Maintain Accurate Records

Even those dreams you do remember easily can change in your memory over time. Our memories aren’t perfect, and with time, the memory of a dream can morph into something inaccurate.

Your dream journal gives you a record to look back on, so you can draw relevant conclusions from past sleeping thoughts. With this record, you can also track patterns within your dreams themselves—for example, you’ll notice if a theme or image commonly reappears.

Have More Lucid Dreams

Lucid dreaming refers to the type of dream in which you’re aware that you’re dreaming, and can control the actions of the dreaming you. Some people report that dream journaling makes them have lucid dreams more often. Because you’re likely sleeping in more than usual right now anyway, why not have fun with it by trying to have lucid dreams?

Tap into Creativity

If you find yourself with a little extra time for creative pursuits right now, a dream journal can serve as an incredible resource for inspiration. Lots of famous artists and inventors have actually drawn ideas from their dreams. Dream journaling gives you a quick resource when you need creative inspo.

How to Start Your Dream Journal

A journal laying on blue sheets.

Ready to experience these benefits? Here are some tips that will help you get your dream journal started.

Make It Easy

Your dream journal needs to be something you can quickly and easily write in upon first waking up. You won’t want to fumble with complex passwords or jump out of bed to fetch your journal from a different room. Pick a method that’s easy for you, whether it’s an intuitive app or a small notebook on your nightstand.

Don’t Stress About Form

In that same spirit of keeping things simple, whatever journal form works best for you is a good one. If you prefer to sketch your dreams instead of writing them down, do it. If you’d rather record spoken entries you can listen to later, that works, too. You can also transcribe sloppily written entries, so don’t worry about perfect handwriting.

Add Titles

When you go back and read through your dream journal, titles will help you pinpoint specific entries you might be looking for. Adding dates, locations, and times of your entries can also help keep your journal organized.

Make It Detailed

Your entries don’t have to be long, but details and specifics will make them more useful. When in doubt, mention the five senses: what did you see, touch, taste, smell, or hear? You could even add a brief record of what happened during the waking day, to see if it impacted your dreams.

Read Through Old Entries

The longer you maintain your dream journal, the more interesting things will get. To get the most out of your journal, you’ll want to periodically flip through and read your old entries. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you forget about some of them—and by how many patterns start to emerge when you read them again.

Everyone copes with stress and worry differently, but dream journaling can be one part of the puzzle of staying calm during a pandemic. And even once life returns to normal, it’s a valuable new habit that you might want to stick with. So, grab that old notebook or pull up your app store, and get ready to delve into your own subconscious!

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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