Dreams have always baffled psychologists and scientists. It’s hard to believe that with so much technology available, we still have not come to a consensus about why we dream or what our dreams even mean.
What we do know is that dreams have the possibility to impact our lives in a profound way. They are so personal, but the benefits of exploring your dreams and tapping the unconscious is far-reaching.
Research has found that people suffering from depression spend longer amounts of time in REM sleep than those who don’t. (For those who don’t know: REM is “rapid eye movement” sleep, where vivid and often anxiety-inducing dreams occur.) Sufferers have been found to feel better when their REM sleep is interrupted than they do when sleeping the whole night through. Analyzing these dreams to pin point stressors within someone’s life may be one way to decrease the amount of time spent in REM and, ultimately, alleviate depression. Of course, dream analysis won’t cure depression, but it could certainly reduce some of the symptoms.
Dreams can be an opportunity to overcome fears or inhibititons. They can provide the dreamer with a new level of self-awareness. Not to mention that dreaming is just plain fun–at least I think so. It adds some surrealistic excitement into your life that can’t be experienced otherwise. There are so many ways to begin engaging yourself with the world of your unconscious mind. Here are just a few ideas to get you going!
-Keep a dream journal: this is something that I have done off and on for a couple of years now.
Some helpful tips:
-Record your dream(s) as soon as you wake up: the earlier you do it, the more likely you are to remember small details
-Identify reoccurring themes, people, locations, or objects
-Become aware of any emotions that present themselves
-Name the dreams to help you organize and categorize them
Once you have been journaling consistently for a while, you may want to begin looking up the meanings of your dreams (online or in dream dictionaries). While these meanings may give you some insight into the root of your dreams, keep in mind that they are not set in stone–so take everything you read with a grain of salt.
-Try out lucid dreaming: this is basically where you become aware of the fact that you are dreaming while you are still in the dream state. (Inception, anyone?) From here, you can have fun playing with the fact you can do whatever you want with no consequences (like flying, or expressing your undying love for someone).
If you are interested in lucid dreaming, you can gather more information here.
The basics to get you started are:
-Develop good dream recall skills (journaling will help you with this)
-As you fall asleep, repeat to yourself that you are dreaming
-Scan your dream for signs that indicate you are dreaming (this could be anything that wouldn’t occur within your own life, whether realistic or not)
-Practice yoga nidra: this concept is extremely similar to lucid dreaming–in fact, it has also been called “lucid sleeping.” The main difference is that you remain aware of your surroundings during yoga nidra while you are only cognizant of your dream during lucid dreaming. Yoga nidra is a type of meditative state that can decrease anxiety and increase energy, mental clarity, and general feelings of well-being. For beginners, it will help to have a yoga nidra teacher guide you through your meditative sleep. If there are no nearby studios offering yoga nidra (or if you’d rather fall asleep at home), try guided yoga nidra CDs–such as these by Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra founder Jennifer Reis. Note: Even if you don’t reach the meditative sleep state the first few times, you will still reach deep relaxation and calm.
– Turn your dreams into art: when you are stuck in a creative rut, dreams can provide some of the best inspiration. Some of my best ideas have come from dreams. Writing, collage, painting, or sculpture provide great templates for your work.
If you feel so inclined, practice one or several of these methods and see where it gets you- mentally, creatively, or otherwise. I am eager to hear results!
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Related: How to Get Better Sleep Tonight
Bed Time Rituals for Beauty Sleep
Photo: Cheryl Hicks & Olga Kruglova, both via Flickr