Writing Down a Dream: Dream Journal Tips

June 11, 2014

Dream journaling is the hands down most important part of dream work. Without our trusty dream journals almost none of us would remember our dreams - at least not on a regular basis.

Dreams are fragile things and disappear from memory very, very quickly.   When we wake up, however, our dreams are very close to the surface of our conscious awareness even if we don't remember them right away.

If you don't normally remember your dreams, don't feel discouraged.  The simple act of of recording and honoring our dreams captures those dream memories hovering just under the edge of consciousness and brings them into to our waking reality.

Don't feel it's necessary to incorporate all the tips that follow.  Start out with the first four or five and then add any you find interesting!
  • Get an attractive notebook or journal and dedicate it exclusively to the recording of dreams. My brand new dream journal is a cute butterfly themed journal from a discount store and cost under $2.  I didn’t feel the need for anything pricey as I know I’m going to be scribbling in it in the middle of the night in my very worst handwriting but a really nice journal works too.
  • Record your dreams immediately after awakening.  Use your journal to record key words, sequence of events and anything you can remember about the way image and characters looked, sounded or smelled – including your reaction to them.  
  • Don't tell yourself that you will rest for a millisecond and then write down your dream.  You won't!
  • Keep your journal close and move around as little as possible until you've written down your dream.  Consider keeping a low light or bright night light on your nightstand so you don't have to turn on jarringly bright lights.
  • Begin writing even if you don't remember much.  Keep asking yourself, what happened before that?  Often dreams are recalled in reverse order so working backwards can be very effective.
  • For those who hope to lucid dream - record anything unusual including bizarre elements and any event that wouldn't normally occur in waking reality.  (This is the beginning of the catalog of dream signs Dr. Steven LaBerge recommends in Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming and will increase your awareness of the dream state.)
  • Record all dream fragments no matter how how fleeting.  Make quick sketches to record characters or scenes.  Consider keeping a second small notebook with you at all times, to jot down any dream memories that pop up during the course of the day.
  • After recording your dream, put the date at the top of your entry and leave some blank space for notes or sychroncities that pop up later.  If you recall a whole dream, give it a short catchy title which captures the subject or mood of the dream (if you attend a dream group this will come in handy!).
  • When you have accumulated some material, look back on it and ask yourself questions.  Try to become familiar with what is dream-like about your dreams so you can recognize them while they are occurring.
  • Note or underline symbolic elements so that you can track them in your waking life.
  • Make little drawing of anything you are too sleepy to write about - even if it doesn't seem to especially important.
  • Go back over each entry as soon as you can.  Puzzle out the sloppy handwriting, cross your T's and rewrite entire words when necessary.  It may be hard to figure out what you have written now but it will be even harder later on later in the day - and completely  impossible next week.
  • Consider using a recorder if you are too tired to write.  But do be aware that a very sleepy person may think they pressed a button when they actually did not!

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