Couple of nights ago, I had a vivid and very realistic dream of someone critiquing my work. I was defending myself and my work trying to convince her of its value when I woke up. Then last night, I had another dream where my colleague got very angry at me and told me I’m “lazy.” He is the nicest person in real life, who never gets angry at anyone–let alone call me that. Both times, I woke up thinking the dreams are so telling about the biggest stresses of my life.
It turns out that dreams are not just there to remind us what our biggest anxieties are–they are also the key to resolving these psychological barriers and “toxic build-ups.” According to Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Arizona, “People who don’t dream well are psychologically constipated, and that can contribute to conditions like depression and anxiety in daily life.” Oh, my!!
Previously, science has taught that dreams are largely meaningless, dregs of images and thoughts from our waking life that randomly surface during sleep. But not only do they allow our deep, subconscious issues to surface (see my dreams above), they also let you work things out consciously in your “real” life. Better dream recall is even associated with better sleep quality, creativity, and well-being, according to a 2011 study. Dreams can even warn about underlying health issues: research shows that many women dream of breast cancer before being diagnosed. Cray!
How to get in touch with your dreams to face your anxieties, feel happier, and find clarity.
Start a dream journal.
Keep a journal on your nightstand and record your dreams as soon as you wake up. This will allow you to practice dream recall and also see if there are any patterns. (Evidently, Meghan Markle gave Kate Middleton a dream journal as a birthday present–who even knows if it’s true? But it definitely sounds like a total Meghan thing to do.)
Practice Lucid Dreaming.
Lucid dreaming is a state in which you know that you’re in a dream. I have experienced this a few times while flying over the ocean, and it can definitely be empowering. This is something that can be developed like a muscle, too. Before falling asleep, decide to ask yourself whether you’re in a dream. Then, when you’re actually in a dream, you can ask, “Am I in a dream?” Once you’re aware you’re in a dream, you can do anything you wish, which lets you uncover your desires, and also…
Find the solution in a dream
Being in a lucid dreaming state is the perfect place to find the solution to the issues you’re facing. But even when you’re not lucid-dreaming, you can still find an uncanny answer to questions, from math problems, to personal relationships and creative concerns. Dreams have helped me overcome writer’s blocks at least a few times by showing me what to write next. Is that weird?
Put the dream wisdom into practice in waking life
What kind of inspiration did you get from your dream? I haven’t just had stressful dreams of being called out by colleagues and getting slammed for my work–I’ve also had some incredibly exhilarating dreams that serve me as the visual for my heart’s deepest desire, almost like destiny. Whether you discover an aspiration, or how to think about underlying stress, or any signals about your mental/physical health, take it as an opportunity to shift your conscious life.
Is dreaming mindfully a part of your wellness regimen?
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