Remembering and analyzing your dreams: 5 tips for starting a dream diary

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More often than not these days, I find myself waking up in the morning to a quickly fading memory of a super strange dream. I don’t know if it’s because of stress over the global pandemic we’re in the middle of, or if there’s just too much light in my room when I’m sleeping. There’s a lot we don’t know about dreams, such as what they mean or why we have them. But what we can do is track them and analyze them. Not only is this practice fun, but it can also help you realize patterns and different moods you may be having. Here are five tips to help you start a dream diary.

Do it right when you wake up

If you don’t do it right away, you’re going to forget. Even if it’s the most vivid dream you’ve had in a year, sometimes it just slips away. The remedy for this is to write your dreams as soon as you wake up, though this requires a bit of commitment on your part. If you set an alarm to wake up every morning, you can label the alarm to remind yourself to journal your dreams. You can also agree to keep dream journals with your roommate and hold each other accountable. The more you actually write down your dreams on time, the better results you’ll get, and hopefully the more likely you’ll be to keep it going in the future.

Mood tracking

If you’ve been feeling pretty down during quarantine, you’re definitely not alone. The gloom you’re feeling might be manifesting in your dreams, and what better way to try to track it than to record the strange dreams you’ve had. If you notice you keep having dreams that make you anxious, record them! See if there are any patterns in your dreams, or in days when you have stressful dreams. It might help you evaluate parts of your life that are stressing you out when you’re awake, so you can better address them.

Use a paper journal

Though this is slightly less convenient than just typing dreams into the notes app on your phone, writing in a physical journal can be a great way to describe your dreams more holistically. You can jot down a few words without the brightness from your phone screen jogging you awake, or you can draw a full-blown picture of what was going on. Sometimes, a dream might be easier to capture with a mix of words and images! And there’s a bonus pro to this tip: Keeping a paper journal next to your bed is a great way to remind yourself to actually use your journal.

Analyze at the end of the week

The science is iffy on what certain things in dreams mean, but it can be a lot of fun to take time to analyze your dreams. It’s as easy as Googling “purple dinosaur in dream” and seeing what pops up! Sure, it might be all garbage, but maybe you’ll have a realization about something that is bothering you in real life and has translated to your dreams. Even if you don’t feel like taking the Google route, you can take time at the end of your week to see if you draw any connections between things that happened to you that week and dreams you had. This can be a great way to figure out if you need a change in your life or if something’s been bothering you.

OK, you don’t have to trust everything in your dreams. Maybe they don’t mean anything at all, and tracking them is more misleading than enlightening. At the very least, tracking what you think about at night is a pretty cool practice and a good way to practice mindfulness right when you wake up. And having a record that you can look back on and laugh at is a ton of fun. Happy dreaming!

Contact Elysa Dombro at [email protected].