9 Tips For Improving Dream Recall To Make Your Dream Journal A Success

22 May

For years I’ve written my dreams down in different places; a day-to-day journal, a dream journal, on my home computer, on my work computer, even on post-it notes. It wasn’t until I started this website back in the fall of 2006 that I starting keeping an organized dream journal where I write my dreams down nearly every day.

I’m really glad I’ve kept up with this. I’ve recently organized and printed up 6 months worth of dreams into a binder! I can’t tell you how neat it is to have this at my fingertips. I’m able to see more clearly the overall landscape of my dream self. It’s interesting to see what people / issues / emotions / places continually pop up, too.

I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along these many months of dream journaling, and that’s what I’d like to share today.

1. Begin writing down your dreams AS SOON AS YOU WAKE UP.

This is the mother of all tips for helping you remember your dreams. I write down my dreams on my computer in notepad before I do anything else. I’m often half asleep. I even will type with my eyes closed.

2. Use keywords or shorthand to quickly jot down important details that will later allow you to recall more details.

Dreams slip out of our waking minds like sand falling from a closed fist. Before the details are whisked away, it is helpful to quickly jot down whatever details you can from as many dreams as possible. This can be anything from writing down keywords, half-sentences, or quick summaries; the important thing is to “plant the seed” of the memory of the dream, so you can then go back and expand each dream using the keywords as triggers to help you recall more details.

3. Give each dream a title

Don’t worry about grammar or a “good” title; the best title is the one that sums up your dream nicely. You can title the dream before or after you’ve written it down. Titling your dreams becomes a helpful reference point once you’ve got a lot of dreams written down.

4. Write your dreams down from a first person perspective and write them as if they are occurring now.

This is useful for two reasons: one, it’s easier to recall details if you imagine them in your head as if they are currently happening, and two, it gets quite cumbersome writing and reading dreams from a past tense third person perspective.

For example, what do you think is easier to read and understand?

“Last night I dreamed I was sitting over a bridge and that I was watching the water below me move by. I then dreamt there was a person nearby, standing by a tree. In the dream he might’ve been looking at me but he didn’t seem to notice me.”

“I’m sitting over a bridge, watching the water below me move by. I can see a person nearby. I think he’s looking at me but doesn’t seem to really notice me.”

Hopefully the second example is easier to both write and read!

5. Keep a list of emotions related to each dream.

There is often a disconnect between the simple details of a dream and then the emotions you felt during the dream. Quickly adding a line for “Emotions” in your dream journal for each dream will allow you to note all the emotions you felt during this dream. This will be even more helpful later on when you are reading your dream journal.

6. Write down the events in your waking life that triggered aspects of the dream.

I find it helpful to note any instances or connection between the dream and recent (or past) experiences. I call these triggers and at the end of each dream I simply include a line titled “triggers” and I jot down whatever connections I see from the real world into my dream. It is interesting to see what experiences tend to carry over into your dreams and this will also make dream interpretation easier.

7. Use a dream question template to help capture all the details of the dream.

Dreams are notoriously strange experiences; often simply writing down the main details fails to capture the heart of the dream due to the disconnected, non-linear, or bizarre details of the dream world.

I’ve written up a long list of questions to use as a basis for nailing down all the various pieces of a dream. My advice is to try it out and then customize it for yourself and your own dreams.

You will be amazed at how many details you will get out by going through a dream question template for each dream.

You can view my dream question template by clicking here.

8. Don’t read dream dictionaries or dream interpretation books.

Avoid them all and analyze on your own. Do not rely on a mass-produced opinion to tell you what your dreams mean!

9. Print up and organize your dreams into a folder.

This will make reading your dreams a breeze. Common themes will become more apparent and it will be easier to make connections between dreams and waking life when you can take in many dreams at once. Having all your dreams together in a bind is like giving yourself a present for all the time you’ve spent logging your dreams.

Please add your own comments and suggestions on this list. What has helped you with dream recall? What do you do that helps you keep a consistent dream journal?

4 Responses to “9 Tips For Improving Dream Recall To Make Your Dream Journal A Success”

  1. Jacob Haqq-Misra May 22, 2007 at 10:13 pm #

    These are good tips. I’ve never had much success in remembering most of my dreams, but the ones I do remember still intrigue me.

  2. Mad Hatter May 23, 2007 at 5:05 am #

    “Write your dreams down from a first person perspective and write them as if they are occurring now.”

    I’m not sure why, but I almost always describe my dreams in this manner. Whether I’m writing them down or telling them to someone else. I think that this is because it’s the best way of making sense of dreams. In most dreams, I wouldn’t even know I had a body by looking, I just “know” I have it. I think it’s just easier to describe it from the point of view that is the most familiar to us.


  3. Andrew Strachan September 14, 2007 at 12:06 pm #

    Hi there,

    Great tips on keeping a dream journal. After years of keeping records of my dreams, I have also managed to refine it down. One thing that helps me, is to just jot down the keywords initially and fill in the details later. I try and use words that describe what emotions I was feeling as well as descriptive keywords. Reminding yourself of the emotions seems to trigger more details later on.

    I’ve written an article here about my experiences : http://www.lucidfun.com/blog/dream-recall-techniques/

  4. Hæmorider October 1, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    I had not thought about that you should think of them as if they are occurring now. Very useful advice!

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