You know that feeling when you wake up from a super-vivid dream that you just can’t shake? You might not remember the details, but you’re definitely feeling the emotions. It’s mornings like those that make you feel like our dreams must hold some sort of meaning — if only you can solve the puzzle.
That’s why we’re enamored with dream tracking. By logging your dreams and their various associations, you can begin to identify patterns and messages from your subconscious mind.
Below, you’ll find eight tips as you start to track your dreams. But before you dive in, you first must decide where. It’s best to use a special notebook or a single app for dreams — and only dreams. And most importantly, it should make you happy. Do you like the feel of a gel pen gliding across milky paper? Or do you prefer something with more grit? Do you want a small and lightweight pad that’s convenient for travel? Or do you prefer a rich, leather-bound notebook that you can keep on your nightstand? You’ll be writing in this daily, so it should be enjoyable. If you prefer to use an app — apps are great because they’re searchable, highly editable and with you all the time — make sure you like the user experience and design so you’ll stick with it. It’s the little things that count.
Once you’ve decided how you’re going to document your dreams, here’s what to keep in mind as you write:
- Use the present tense. This helps put you in the mindset of the dream. You’re experiencing, not remembering.
- Nothing’s too small or unimportant. If the only thing you remember from your dream is an emotion or color, that’s fine. Log it. If you feel like something doesn’t fit or make sense, no problem. Jot it down. Consider writing on every other line or leaving space at the end of each entry before adding the next one in order to make edits or add notes later.
- Emotions are key. The emotions you experience in a dream are an essential part of how you interpret it and potentially make connections to your waking life. The feelings you experience won’t always match the experience you’re having, and that’s okay. Write down all your emotions and any associated cues, regardless of whether they “make sense” with the dream.
- Forget about a narrative. You can’t expect your dreams to follow the structure of a three-act play; there’s not necessarily going to be a beginning, middle and end. In fact, there might not be any sort of flow at all. That’s okay. Write down things as you remember them. Don’t try to connect the dots or make assumptions. A bulleted list works well for documenting dreams that seem like a bunch of random scenarios.
- But do have a title. It doesn’t have to be anything creative or witty, just descriptive. Titling your journal entry will help you summarize what happened and make it easy to reference when you have a relevant dream in the future. Some other logistical notes: Start each entry with the date and, if you’d like, include a cast of characters, too.
- There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Dreams can be an expression of something you haven’t yet come to terms with, or they can involve something you’re not entirely comfortable with (whether it’s a past experience or something you’d never consider doing). Either way, remember that they’re just dreams, not reality. There’s no need at all to feel shame or embarrassment.
- Note what’s going on in your waking life. Make a few short notes about what’s happening in your daily life that might inform — or, vise-versa, be informed by — this dream. It’s important not to make this your personal diary but to only add a few quick notes if something seems related.
- Add dream journaling to your morning routine. Recording your dreams is best done in the morning when thoughts are fresh and you haven’t had time to over-process things. Keep your dream journal within arm’s reach of your bed and get started first thing. Think of it as an excuse to stay under your cozy Down Duvet for an extra five minutes. If you’re using an app, make sure you can pick up your phone or computer and go straight to your dream tracker without opening anything else.
Many people say that the more they journal, the better they get at recalling their dreams, so don’t worry if it’s slow going at first. Ease yourself into it at whatever pace feels right, and allow yourself time to explore what techniques work best for you. Happy tracking!