I Kept a Dream Journal for 30 Days - This is What I Learned
My dreams have both intrigued and frightened me over the years. From a young age, I was made aware that my grandmother on my father’s side often had dreams that came true, a little bit like predictions or visions.
Eventually, this began to happen to me, too.
For example, a couple years back my dad was away on a business trip. A few days before he came home, I had a dream that involved him getting in a car accident on a highway. That’s odd, I thought. He had flown out for the business trip, so it couldn’t be one of those dreams. Imagine my surprise when he arrived back home to tell us that he had driven back with some of his business associates rather than flying, and they had hit a deer on the highway.
That being said, that didn’t necessarily mean that every single dream I had was going to come true. More often than not, they were nothing more than twisted manifestations of my waking life entering the dark void of my unconsciousness each night in distorted ways.
I think of dreams as signs. Signs that are trying to show you what’s actually going on inside of your head, or outside of it in your real life, and I was determined to learn more.
How I Dream Journal:
Most people, when dream journaling, will keep a notebook right by their bed so that once they wake up, they are able to immediately write down their dream so they don’t forget it. This is what is generally recommended.
I’ve personally never had a problem remembering my dreams. Most of my dreams are vivid and detailed, and I have a pretty great recall of my memories in general, so I didn’t need a specific tactic to aid me in remembering anything. I just needed an easy way to write the dreams down.
Rather than keep a journal right by my bed for this, every morning when I woke up, I would jot down the key theme or occurrence of my dream from the night before on a small whiteboard I had near my closet. For example, one night I had a dream that a co-worker and I were hosting a friend’s bachelorette party at a McDonalds, among a number of different things.
Simply writing “bachelorette party at McDonald’s” on my whiteboard was able to bring back the entire dream for me when I read it later. Upon arriving home from work, I then wrote about the dream in a bit more detail in a journal.
Remember, everyone is different and every dream is different. If you are one to quickly forget your dreams soon after waking up, I’d definitely recommend keeping a notebook by your bed so you can write the whole thing out before starting your day. If you want to write more than a couple of sentences about your dreams, feel free to do that as well, but don’t feel as though every dream warrants a novel.
Having said that, what did I learn throughout this 30-day experience?
Dream Journaling Helped Me Think Logically & Critically
Before I set out on this 30-day challenge, I didn’t think too deeply about the type of dreams (or night terrors) I was having. If I had a particularly startling dream that night (like someone in my life dying, a dream I have had more than a handful of times in my life), I would usually go through the day feeling depressed and uneasy.
When I took the time to dream journal and actively look for the meaning of these dreams, it opened my eyes to the fact that these dreams didn’t literally mean someone in my life was going to die. It made me ask a number of questions:
- Why do I think I had this dream?
- What do I think this dream is trying to tell me?
- Who was in the dream?
- How had I been feeling the day I had the dream?
These questions made me arrive at two answers. I was either:
a) Going through a difficult time at the moment and was feeling stressed out, which translated to “death” appearing in my dreams, and/or
b) In my waking life, there was something that might be ending, which would make way for a new beginning.
Once I could think more logically and critically about my dreams using my dream journal and a dream dictionary, they began to scare and worry me less as I began to interpret them.
I Discovered Hidden Messages in My Dreams
I talked about how most of my dreams were ridiculous, and that dream journaling helped me interpret the “real” messages behind them, but there were often times where I was able to uncover relevant messages as well.
One night I had a dream that I entered a short story writing contest, and I won (again, among a number of different things). In the dream I was telling friends and family, “I told you so!”
When I eventually wrote this out in my dream journal, it made me realize that I hadn’t written a short story in years, something I really enjoyed doing in university, and something I had been really good at. Weeks before I even had this dream, my partner brought the topic up to me a couple of times, asking why I had stopped writing. It made me remember how much I loved creating characters and stories, and I decided at some point I would pick that back up again.
Now, that might not have been the actual message of the dream, but it did give me a valuable message nonetheless.
Dream Journaling Helped Me Find Patterns
Keeping the dream journal allowed me to pinpoint exactly when I was having bad weeks (which were filled with bad dreams and nightmares) versus good weeks (filled with “regular” dreams). It gave me the chance to think about the type of things in my waking life that contributed to a bad dream or nightmare, such as work stress or life stress in general. It helped me uncover my true feelings and dig deep. This has even been proven in studies: “By tracking your dreams, you will be able to recognize traits, emotions, and actions that you would like to change.”
Knowing what contributed to my not-so-nice dreams allowed me to consciously set myself up to avoid having nightmares by debriefing the bad energy before going to bed. Once I actively did things like yoga or meditation before going to sleep after a bad day, the bad dreams seemed to slowly seep away.
Dream Journaling Contributed to My Creativity
As a writer, I felt that taking the time to write about my dreams and really dissect them was an amazing experience that contributed to my overall creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.
Did you know that Frankenstein and much of Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry were born from their creators’ dreams?
Dreams are strange and interesting occurrences that many of us still don’t understand, even today. It’s like magic is happening right inside our own brains. Really getting to think about the type of dreams I was having actually helped make me better at my job!
It even gave me ideas for some short stories. Who knows, maybe I’ll write one soon!
Related Article: Dream Journaling & Tips to Enhance Your Memory