Your Step-by-Step Guide to Dream Journaling (+ Prompts)
What if you could tap into a new part of your mind, every time you went to sleep? The average Joe spends 26 years of their life asleep. Now, that’s a lot of Zzzz. But it’s also a lot of chances to do something special with that time. Like spotting patterns in your dreams and bringing those lessons into your waking life, through the power of dream journaling.
What is dream journaling?
Dream journaling is the practice of logging your dreams when you wake up each morning, before they leave you to be replaced by your thoughts for the day.
It’s one of those things that can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. You can opt to log each dream in great detail, turn your dreams into illustrations, or just jot down a few bullet points to help you remember.
As with any type of journaling, it’s important you approach dream journaling in a way that feels right for you.
But… what if I don’t dream?
If you’re thinking that dream journaling sounds great and all but you never remember your dreams… don’t despair. There’s still something in this for you.
Way back in 1978, Henry Reed led a study into the link between dream recall and meditation. He found that, when a participant had meditated the day before, they were significantly more likely to recall their dreams the next morning.
So if that’s you, why not give meditation a try? It could be just what your mind needs to help prepare you for better dreaming. (Not sure where to start? We love the Calm app, it’s super easy to use and has a free option!)
What role do dreams play in global cultures?
Take a deep dive into certain cultures and you’ll find that dreams, or dreaming, play a pretty incredible role.
Native American culture believes that dreams are an extension of reality. They believe that dreams enable us to travel to different realms, communicate with our ancestors and even talk to animals.
“Your soul dreams those dreams; not your body, not your mind. Those dreams come true. The soul travels all over the world when you dream.”
Chippewa Elder John Thunderbird
The psychology behind dream journaling
When you look at the research, it turns out that dreams are an extension of our reality. Or at least, they can be.
A study conducted a “blind analysis” of 940 dreams from a woman who kept a regular dream journal for 30 years, before making predictions about her life. Of the 26 predictions that were made, she was able to confirm 23 as accurate.
This included aspects of her emotional temperament, preoccupations, relationships, financial concerns, physical health, and cultural interests. All of which supports the idea that patterns in dream content have meaningful connections with people’s concerns, interests and activities in their waking lives.
The (surprising) benefits of dream journaling
It can support the practice of lucid dreaming
Imagine being able to control your dreams… so you can explore new possibilities, experiment with fresh ideas and let your curiosity run free, all whilst you’re catching up on some much needed slumber. That’s the power of lucid dreaming.
And the process is that much easier when you practice dream recall. So keep your journal by your bed, and get ready to wander through your dreamland.
You can tap into more creative ideas
They say your dreams are a way of recombining your past experiences into something new. According to Harvard University psychologist Deirdre Barrett, “...in the sleep state, the brain thinks much more visually and intuitively.”
Logging your dreams means that you’re able to keep track of those new ideas, giving them a dedicated space to bubble, brew and develop over time.
You’re able to develop better self-awareness
Your dreams can show you what’s really going on in your life. Freud called dream interpretation the “royal road” to the unconscious. Meaning that it can show you what’s going on behind the scenes of your regular life.
If there’s something that your mind keeps getting stuck on or an issue that’s festering away beneath the surface, it may well pop up in your dreams. If you find yourself dreaming about the same thing over and over again, make a note of it. There might just be a lesson for you there. And a cue to work on it whilst you’re awake.
How to get started with dream journaling
Step 1: Pick your dream journal
Your dream journal needs to be two things. Good looking enough that you’re going to be happy with it sitting on your bedside table for the foreseeable future. And spacious enough that you’ve got all the room you need to explore your dreams in whatever way you feel.
Step 2: Give your journal a home
Your journal’s going to need to live right next to your bed. That way, you can pick it up the moment your dream ends and start writing out what you saw.
So make sure you’ve got a pen, a pencil, a collection of different colours or whatever else you fancy there too.
Step 3: Keep it private
Let’s take a second to look at any blockers that might stand between you and dream journaling.
- You forget your dream before writing it down. If that’s you, try giving yourself a moment to pause, without a phone or any other distractions around. Your dream might just come back to you if you give it a chance…
- You’re scared about what other people might think. If you’re worried about other people finding out about your “weird” dreams, then don’t share them. Keep your journal somewhere safe and private, where only you can read it. Pop it in your bedside drawer if it makes you feel better.
- You’re not “a writer”. If writing isn’t your thing, don’t do it. Your dream journal doesn’t have to be in a written form. Scribble down some bullet notes. Draw a picture. Or make up your own system. You can do it in your own unique way. It’s your practice after all.
Step 4: Take the time to reflect
If you have a quick Google, you’ll find that there are a lot of guides out there telling you how to interpret your dreams. But we’re not going to link any of them here.
Because we’re firm believers that your dreams are yours to interpret. Only you know the unique context of your life and the background of your dreams. It’s up to you to look at how those dreams make you feel and what lessons would be helpful to take from them.
Some dream journaling prompts to help you begin
If you’re picking up your dream journal, staring at the blank page and wondering where to begin… these are for you.
Keep these dream journaling prompts to hand for those sleepy early mornings when you don’t know what to say.
- What colours did you see in your dream? How would you describe those colours e.g. vibrant, muted, fluorescent, and so on…
- Did you notice any particular patterns or shapes in your dream?
- Where did your dream take place? Can you recognise the places?
- Who was present in your dream? Were they familiar to you? If so, were they acting in the way you might expect?
- Did you feel any movement in this dream?
- How did your dream make you feel? What emotions did you experience? How do you feel now, looking back at it?
- Can you draw a picture, an illustration or a rough sketch of your dream?
- What would you like to have happened next in your dream?
- Is there any part of this dream that you’d like to change? Is there anything you wish had happened differently?
- Would you like to experience a dream like this one again?