- Mental Health
Decoding the Secret Messages of Your Dreams - Remembering (Part 1 of a Series)
You don't need a secret decoder ring in order to figure out what your dreams are trying to tell you. So, how do you find out what all those wonderful, scary, strange dreams mean?
You have to start with you. That's right. It doesn't matter what you read or hear or what classes you take. Ultimately, you - and only you - are the best person to decipher what's going on during your dreams. Your dreams are messages from your subconscious mind to your waking mind, telling you to pay attention.
There are four stages of the sleep cycle. I know, you don't dream, right? Truth is, you just aren't remembering your dreams. You can dream during any one of those four stages, but the most vivid and memorable dreams happen during the last stage. REM sleep, where all the magic happens.
Our sleep cycle lasts around 90 to 120 minutes. On average, the sleep cycle repeats 4 to 5 times during an 8 hour period, but for some, it can even repeat as many as 7 times! You can easily have several dreams in one sleep period! Most people only remember the dream that they have had when they are about to wake up, which, like I mentioned earlier, is the most vivid dream.
What if you don't remember any of your dreams? There are two tricks to try. Throughout your day, whenever you can remember, simply tell yourself "I am going to remember my dreams tonight". When you lay down to go to sleep, tell yourself again, "I am going to remember my dreams tonight".
Another way is to drink a large glass of water before bed. Wait! Won't that wake you up and disturb your dreaming? Why, yes it will! Since we remember our dreams right before we wake up, if nature calls and wakes us from our sleep, chances are, we'll remember the dream we were just having! Researchers have found that using this method, 90% of the time people would be able to remember their dream.
Ok, I am remembering my dreams! Now what?
Most people will tell you that upon awakening, reach over to your night table and grab your dream journal and pen and write your dream down. Obviously, these people do not have kids or pets! For those of us who don't have the time to write it all down while we're still brushing away the last wisps of sleep, try going through the dream in your waking mind. Relive it while you're letting the dog out, filling up cereal bowls, putting the coffee on. If you have time, document as much as you can. Most mornings, I'm scrambling to start the day, so I'm reliving the dream in my mind, trying to pull out the details. As soon as I get a chance, I write it down, create a voice memo using my cell phone or type it into a document on my computer. Use whatever works for you!
A dream journal is helpful in deciphering those secret messages simply by how a dream journal works. Your journaling will actually start before you dream! Grab a spiral notebook. On the left side of your open notebook, write down what happened during your day, as much as you can remember. Anything significant? Were you worrying about anything in particular that day? Did you get praise at your workplace or a promotion? Maybe one of your kids gave an Oscar-worthy performance at their school play. If you have the time to go into detail, go for it. If not, a quick recap of what happened during your waking hours works just as well.
On the right side of your open notebook, write down as much of your dream as you can remember. Focus on how you felt. Were there any other people in your dream? Any animals? Again, focus on how you felt when you encountered people, animals, places, things. Any unusual colors or scents? If there were other people present in your dream, what were they like? Were they helpful, loving and kind or were they angry or cold towards you?
Usually your dreams are messages about what happened during your day, but the messages can sometimes take a while to get to you. That's why it's helpful to have that side of your dream journal that details your waking hours. Had a dream where you felt as though everything was chaos and you were being pulled underwater? Could it have anything to do with the day you had 3 days ago, where you were running around nonstop?
Once you have your dream documented and you're confident that you've got it all down, try to give it a title. Try using 5 words or less. Some dreams are "Bliss" while others are "Whirlwind". Giving your dream a title helps you figure out the message. Sometimes it helps to document a couple of dreams, maybe even a week's worth, to understand the message. Give yourself some time.
In my next article, let's explore some common dream symbols and maybe some not so common ones!