THE BLOG
12/15/2015 03:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

12 Easy Steps for Keeping a Dream Journal and Getting Started Tonight

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By DreamsCloud.com

Dreams, if taken literally, can be very mysterious and confusing to understand and accurately decode.

Whether you're dreaming about an ex, a deceased loved one, or simply flying, falling or having your teeth fall out while riding a pink elephant (we've all had that dream, right?), your dreams are constantly communicating with you and are integral to better understanding your waking life emotions, stresses, victories and mental well-being. Dreams are the voice of your unconscious mind and are filled with important messages... especially for those paying close attention to them!

Although there are many theories about why we dream, most experts agree that keeping a dream journal is an important first step -- and valuable source of personal insight -- into your inner world.

Keeping a daily dream journal can also be an easy and fun way to help you identify recurring patterns, trends and dream symbols, as well as improving your ability to continually remember more dream details (the more you do something, the better you get at "training" your brain), and pointing you towards an aspect of your life that may need some extra attention.

According to dream educator Bobbie Ann Pimm, author of Notes from a Dreamer ... on Dreaming: A Personal Journey in Dream Interpretation, "While you're sleeping, your dreams are telling you all you need to know to live a happy and fulfilling life. They deal with your emotions, relationships, career, fears, needs, desires, aspirations, spirit ... they reflect everything you are and everything that you can be. Keeping a dream journal is the best way to start learning from your dreams!"

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Pimm Provided the Following 12 Easy and Helpful Steps for Starting a New Dream Journal, Tonight!

  1. Before you go to bed tonight, take a few minutes and write about your day. Who did you see or talk to? Where did you go? What did you do? What was the most emotionally charged (good or bad) event of the day?
  2. Next, set an intention to remember a dream. If you don't normally remember your dreams, you need to convince your unconscious that you do want to remember them. Write it down in your own words. Something like: "Tonight I will dream and when I wake up, I will remember the dream and record it."
  3. Keep something by your bedside to record your dream immediately upon waking up. This could be a physical notebook, or even a dream logging app installed on your smartphone.
  4. When you first wake up -- don't move or open your eyes. Lie completely still and ask yourself, "What was just going through my mind?" Once you remember something, work backwards and ask yourself, "What happened before that ... and before that ... and before that?"
  5. Continue to lie still and once you've remembered as much as you can, go over the dream in your head one more time before moving.
  6. Grab your recording device and make note of a few memorable "keywords" for each scene of the dream. Even if you start recording the entire dream immediately, you can quickly begin to forget all of the details, so the keywords will help you to remember. This could include individual words like, "dog," "house," "husband," "swimming" or "floating."
  7. While recording the dream, use first person present tense. For instance, "I am doing... I see..." etc.
  8. Be sure to record the setting, the people, the actions and the emotions experienced in the dream. Also make note of how you felt when you woke up (i.e., happy, sad, excited, angry etc.), then give the dream a descriptive title.
  9. Now think about what you did yesterday. Review what you had written down the night before. How might the theme, emotions or actions in the dream relate to something that happened recently in your waking life?
  10. Look for any "day residue" in the dream -- someone or something you saw, something you did, etc. Day residue is important because the unconscious is linking the events of the day to something already stored in memory. Why is that particular event, person, or object appearing in your dreams now?
  11. Share your dream with someone you trust, either by giving them a printed copy of it and/or by telling them about the dream yourself. They can read the dream as you tell it -- but you should recount the dream without looking at what you wrote. Oftentimes, you will leave something out or add something new -- both of these are probably important details. The other person may also help you to recall additional details, or remind you of waking life events that could be relevant.
  12. Make a habit of recording your dreams every night. You may start to see recurring themes, emotions, people, etc., all of which are pointing to an aspect of your life that needs your attention.

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Because dream symbols and their meanings are often not literal, but metaphorical, a Dream Dictionary can also be helpful for decoding and interpreting dream symbols, and how they may relate to your waking life events and emotions.

When asked about using a dream dictionary to help interpret your dreams, Pimm added, "It's important to remember that only you know what your dreams and dream symbols really mean. A dream dictionary can offer suggestions and additional food for thought to you - a starting point for you to consider. However, It should never be taken as offering the only interpretation of what the symbol means to you. Only you can decide that!"

By following these 12 easy steps, you'll be on your way towards a lifelong and fulfilling journey of understanding your dreams, and ultimately, yourself!

Have you ever kept a dream journal before? If not, let us know if you have any additional questions about getting started!

DreamsCloud is the world's leading online dream resource, with an interactive database of more than 1.9 million dreams. Offering a 360-degree approach to dreaming -- including a real-time global dream map, dream journaling/sharing tools, a massive online dream dictionary of over 5000 dream symbols, and the largest group of professional dream reflectors -- DreamsCloud empowers users to better understand their dreams and improve their waking lives. They also offer a free app for iOS and Android called DreamSphere.