What I Learned from Keeping a Dream Journal -- And Why You Should Have One
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a very active dreamer. While I don’t always remember what happened in my dreams, I have always known when I dreamed, and sometimes wake up feeling the emotions I had while I was sleeping. I’m the type of person who would wake up pissed off at someone for something they did in my dream.
Over the years I’ve “googled” what my dreams meant, but I always felt like the interpretations given were too generic or way off base from what I thought they meant. So, for most of my life, I’ve not put much stock into them. Enter Eric Tyrone of Soul Dreamers. We interviewed him as a guest on the podcast for an episode all about dream interpretation, and he completely changed my mind on how dreams can impact you.
Why Keep a Dream Journal
I first started my dream journal as an experiment to see if I would get any value out of it. After hearing Eric describe the simple and personal way to interpret dreams, I was intrigued to apply it to mine. Plus, I wanted to see if there were lessons I could learn. I was honestly skeptical of whether or not I’d even be able to do it for more than a week before getting frustrated with the process. Turns out, I really enjoy interpreting my dreams. What’s more, it has actually turned into a tool that I use for personal growth. I wouldn’t say that I’ve had any major breakthroughs (yet), but I have had little insights on my thoughts and behaviors that have allowed me to change up my approach to things in my life.
Another benefit is that my dreams have started to become a bit of self-serve therapy for me. I’ve noticed that many of my recent dreams have focused on past and current situations in which I have a lot of anger or sadness tied to them. I know it may sound a little strange, but I definitely believe that I’m processing some of these stored emotions in my dreams. When I reflect on the dreams and the emotions in the morning, I am able to work on letting that
In our interview, Eric talked about using your dreams to help build and trust your intuition. I can’t say that I have experienced this yet, but I also think it might be a very slow and subtle process, especially for me. I have a bit of a block when it comes to intuition (that’s a post for another day), but I also believe that intuition can be accessed through your dreams given what my dreams have taught me so far.
Lastly, I want to add that I’ve had some really ridiculous dreams that I think are just there to give me a good laugh. I’m sure I could go down the rabbit hole trying to analyze those types of dreams, but sometimes I just think it’s better to laugh about. I mean, if my dog sitting in a chair like a human, drinking mimosas from a champagne flute, and gabbing about the latest celebrity gossip has some deeper meaning, I think I’d prefer the laugh more.
What If I Don't Dream?
Everyone dreams (or has the ability to dream); you just might not remember your dreams.* In fact, it’s pretty common for people to forget their dreams. Although I feel like I can recall my dreams more often than not, I definitely go through periods of thinking that I haven’t dreamed in weeks. Thanks to our conversation with Eric Tyrone, I learned a few tips that have helped me to start dreaming (or, more accurately, remember them) when I’m having a dry spell:
Avoiding alcohol for a few days when I’ve noticed that I “haven’t been dreaming”
Keeping my dream journal and pen next to my bed as a subtle reminder to my conscious and subconscious mind that I want to remember my dreams
Setting the intention as I get into bed that I want to remember my dreams
Drinking chamomile tea at night
Taking a few minutes each morning to journal on my dreams or what I can remember
Staying positive when I can’t recall my dreams and focusing on the possibility of remembering them the next night
I’ve found that writing about my dreams almost every day starts to serve as its own self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to recalling my dreams. Because I know that I’m going to write down and reflect on my dreams, my mind is primed to remember them.
*Side note: Dreams tend to happen during the REM cycle of sleep. If you aren’t entering REM sleep, you have bigger concerns that you’ll want to address, such as sleep apnea and insomnia.
How to Interpret Your Dreams
While there are definitely dreams that seem to be universal, such as flying or being naked in public, there shouldn’t be a universal interpretation for any dream as each person is an individual. As soon as our dream expert said this in our interview, it clicked and made me incredibly excited to start interpreting my own dreams.
So what is my process for interpreting my dreams? I’ve taken what Eric Tyrone shared with us on the podcast and built on it as I’ve gone. I try to spend no more than 10 minutes each morning on dream interpretation so I don’t overthink it. I encourage you to set a similar time limit.
Here are the steps that I’ve found work for me:
What does that person/thing/situation from your dream mean to you?
What thoughts and feelings did you have while you were dreaming?
What is coming up for you in reflection of what you’ve written down?
What do you *intuitively* feel is the message or lesson from the dream?
If you are struggling to answer the fourth question or think you might be overanalyzing it, I recommend stopping and coming back to it later. I’ve found this has helped me to strip away the stories that I have built up about the person/thing/situation that I dreamt about so I can reflect more clearly on what my dream is telling me.
One encouraging note: The more consistently you interpret your dreams, the easier the process becomes. Most days I can go through the four steps in my head within minutes of waking up as I’m so tuned in after a few months of doing this almost every day.
It’s been so interesting to track my dreams over the past three months. I thought for sure I would have the same or similar dreams more often than I do. However, I’ve noticed that my dreams are all over the place -- sometimes they reflect some issue I’m dealing with in my current daily life, other times they dig up some unresolved internal conflict from my past, and still other times I can’t quite understand where they came from (a.k.a. super weird or funny dreams). Regardless, I most often can glean some wisdom from my dreams. It’s a little wild how much my dreams “speak” to me and how I’ve been able to gain more self-awareness into how my waking thoughts and emotions are impacting me. And I can say without a doubt that taking this personal approach to dream interpretation is far more beneficial than “googling” some generic explanation for my dreams.
Want to learn more?
Check out our episode with Eric Tyrone - Episode 43: A No B.S. Guide to Using Dreams for Transformation