They say eyes are the windows to the soul; I differ.
They're at least windows to our subconscious, and what's closer to the truest form of a soul than that?
Before you go all "I don't dream" on me, let me tell you one thing: everybody dreams. You do it every time you sleep long enough to reach R.E.M. (Rapid Eye Movement) in the sleep cycle. R.E.M. happens after an approximate of 90 minutes of sleep. So, if you've ever slept for that much time —if you're human, you can guarantee it—, chances are that you've dreamt; you just don't recall your dreams.
...Now, if you don't ever sleep, Mr. Cullen, that's truly a shame and not my problem...
I'm guessing you're here because you wish to start a dream journal or are at least interested in the subject. If that's the case and you have trouble remembering your dreams the moment you wake up, stick to the end, so I can give you some pointers.
The following are some benefits that I, along with others, have experienced in consequence of writing down my dreams and some guidelines to heighten them.
1. Increasing awareness
We've all been sold the idea of mindfulness. It's something a lot of us aspire to: to be present in the here and now. Who would've thought that the things that happen when we're asleep have as much of an impact on our practice as the things that we do during the waking hours? Certainly not me. Well, they do. That is if you actually write them down.
Whenever we activate the process of writing with the purpose of narrating, commonly the trigger is having witnessed something to document in the first place, right? Otherwise, we would just sit with an open notebook before us and a pen resting perfectly on our hand. You see, we document what we observe. And it's a well-known fact that the act of observation is crucial in achieving awareness.
2. Improving memory
I promise you that as soon as you begin writing your dreams, dream recall will just become easier and easier every morning. I have terrible memory skills, but sometimes I will just get déjà vu —a feeling I'm a huge fan of— and realize that the moment in question actually comes from a dream. And this wonder is not exclusive to only dreams, but also daily life. Writing down our dreams keeps our brain in shape by exercising our memory muscle, something that, unfortunately, has been proven to be a decreasing practice in this modern age.
3. Cutting through creative block
Has it ever happened to you that upon waking up you think: "something like that would've never occurred to me"? Well, it did. You were just asleep. Dreams are pretty whacky sometimes. Actually, a lot of novels are inspired by dreams. What does that tell you? Maybe that dreams are aids to see things from perspectives you could've never conceived.
For a while in my life, I had so much trouble sleeping that I ended up embracing my insomnia hours and dismissing sleep altogether to potentialize my creative inspiration and productivity. If I had known! I mean, this knowledge still hasn't kept me from going all vampiress Emily Dickinson, but it has made me cherish my sleeping hours a lot more and sometimes even prepare for an all-nighter.
4. Getting to know yourself
Like I said previously, dreams are windows to the subconscious. And according to Time, the conscious part of our mind is pretty much nothing at all. Some argue that the subconscious fraction represents 90-95% of our entire brain. That means we have quite a handful of information about ourselves and even more content for our dreams, which happen to be the few moments in our lives in which we can access the subconscious freely.
I don't know about you, but when I travel somewhere with a low probability of ever going back, my instinct is to take as many pictures as possible and write every single experience down. You might find a clue of value.
5. Learning to interpret
So, once you begin writing your dreams, I would highly recommend you make an attempt to unravel them. A lot of the messages might be hidden to the naked eye, like a treasure, in both behavior and value. The way I interpret my dreams is I would write it all down, sort of like a stream of consciousness, not really caring for the most poetic way to present them. Then, I would underline things like locations, colors, objects, phrases, even numbers, to first brainstorm their meanings on my own. Once I do that, I would continue to search for symbolism online that might help me decipher the message further.
6. Expanding your horizons
Now, this is my favorite reason to keep a dream journal. What I mean by "expanding your horizons" has nothing to do with the physical world and everything to do with the power of the human mind. I present to you the phenomenon of lucid dreaming. For those who aren't familiar with this term, a lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer is aware of the fact that they are dreaming. And the continuous practice of this brings with it limitless possibilities, like even controlling your dreams and choosing them in their entirety.
I'm almost sure you've lucid dreamed some time. On several occasions, it happens accidentally, but if you train persistently, starting with writing your dreams down to increase awareness and dream recall, it is said you can become a pro. Me? I'm still working on it, but the various experiences I've had are truly mind-blowing.
Write in present tense. That way you can re-experience the dream as you write it and train to become conscious while you dream.
Write emotions, not just events. Emotions are also huge indicators when looking for the meaning of dreams.
Write first thing in the morning. Dreams fade as time passes, and you might regret not writing as soon as possible. When I wake up in the middle of the night, and my journal will remain closed for anemic reasons (a.k.a. laziness), I type everything I remember on my phone to later rewrite it on my journal the next day. It's also fun to wake up to a bunch of gibberish and knowing it had nothing to do with alcohol consumption.
Now, if you have trouble remembering a single dream you can grasp on to write about to increase your dream recall and continue the cycle positively, here's what you can do. During the day repeat to yourself "I will remember my dreams" as an affirmation. You can even write it down several times. Another thing that might help is to set an item in your bedroom to remind you of this whenever you see it. So, for example, if I decide to give my dreamcatcher the purpose of reassuring me that I will remember my dreams, a trigger will go off in my brain every time I lay eyes on my dreamcatcher. Simple, yeah?
If you have any questions or need any extra advice, don't hesitate to reach out to me. Also, if you are interested in a post solely to go in-depth about lucid dreaming, like this post below. I really hope you enjoyed reading this and found it useful. I'll see you next Friday.