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Science Says Keeping a Dream Diary Can Make Us More Creative

Science Says Keeping a Dream Diary Can Make Us More Creative

The very act of recording a dream is fascinating. It improves your awareness of the dream state, making it easier to recall dreams and work with them. If you are wondering why you should even bother recalling a dream, well, dreams have been responsible for some major creative and scientific discoveries in human history.

In 1965, Paul McCartney of the legendary pop group The Beatles composed the entire melody for the hit acoustic song Yesterday in a dream. It came back to him in its entirety when he woke up and he quickly replicated the song on his piano, asking his family and friends if they had ever heard it before. He was initially worried that he was replicating someone else’s work.

Similarly, Niels Bohr, the father of quantum mechanics, often spoke of the inspirational dream that led to his most revolutionary discovery of the structure of the atom. Even Albert Einstein, famous for his genius insights, credited many of those insights to his dreams. “Einstein’s Dreams” is a fascinating read about the collage of stories Einstein dreamed in 1905 on the brink of his breakthrough discoveries.

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When you start to successfully capture dreams and begin to keep a dream diary, the following are some wonderful benefits you can expect:

1. Keeping a dream diary provides us a record.

Dreams are quite fleeting. Most dreams get lost shortly after we have them. Often you won’t remember a dream after only a few hours, or a few days at most. Why allow yourself to forget all your dreams forever when you can keep them on record? Keeping a dream diary ensures your dreams are safely recorded and you can go back to them whenever you want in future.

2. Keeping a dream diary can inspire creativity.

Dreams are also powerful tools for creative inspiration. When you read your dream diary and recall dreams, you engage different parts of the brain and trigger your mind to think in a totally different way that you might not otherwise have been able to do. That’s almost always a good thing for getting your creative juices moving, especially when you’ve hit a creative mental block.

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3. Keeping a dream diary can lead to brilliant discoveries.

As already mentioned, who knows what brilliant insights or discoveries are waiting to be unearthed in your dreams. One dream can result in a brilliant discovery or invention that alters not just your world or the world of your loved ones, but also the course of the whole world in general.

4. Keeping a dream diary allows us to appreciate our own mental growth.

Being able to look back on a dream later and think, “Ah, interesting” or “Geez, that was a weird dream” can be a lot of fun, not to mention eye-opening. It could give you an appreciation of your own mental growth a few years into the future looking back and seeing where your mind was compared to where your mind is at currently. For many people, this is enough reason in itself to keep a dream diary.

5. Keeping a dream diary allows us to observe our sub-conscious.

The beauty of keeping a dream diary is that when you read through it, dreams come flooding back into memory. You see details of your subconscious thoughts vividly all over again, meaning you can analyze what was/is going on in your subconscious mind. Even if you are not keen on analyzing your dreams, knowing what your deepest thoughts are is oftentimes quite enlightening. And besides, the simple act of writing down dreams can be therapeutic too, just like keeping a regular diary.

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Conclusion: Dreams are not the meaningless, corrupt or delusional fantasies some make them out to be

Psychologists no longer dismiss dreams as mere fantasies or random neurons firing. Today they recognize dreams as an ongoing thought process that happens while we are asleep. That is why it is a great idea to journal your dreams. If you don’t journal your dreams, you might never know what profound thoughts are happening while you are asleep, and what impact those thoughts might have on your waking life.

Admittedly, though, oftentimes when we want to remember dreams all we have when we wake up in the morning is a vague recollection of a place or the lingering feeling of being upset. It doesn’t seem worth writing down.

If you have trouble remembering dreams, be patient with yourself. Putting too much pressure on yourself to dream or having high expectations to recall dreams will only exasperate the situation and leave you feeling more disappointed or frustrated.

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Dreams are erratic. They will come around in their own sweet time. And when they do come, try lucid anchoring to capture them.

Try this lucid anchoring exercise to capture your dreams

Lucid anchoring comes from the fascinating branch of psychology called Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). Just before you fall asleep, pick an item that you can see clearly from your bed. It can be a prominent picture hung on the wall, for example. This will be your anchor.

Look at this picture when you go to sleep, wake up during the night and first thing in the morning. When you look at the picture say to yourself, “I will remember my dreams.” The phrase acts as a trigger for your unconscious brain to associate the picture with remembering dreams. It’s a statement of intent that informs your mind to focus on your dreams and remember them.

Look at that picture multiple times each night to improve the odds of remembering dreams. It’s also advisable to have on hand a book light or pen with a light attached for recording the most vivid images or emotions from a dream right in the middle of the night upon awakening. Don’t trust you’ll remember your dream in the morning—many amazing dreams and brilliant ideas are lost with that assumption.

Featured photo credit: Eugenio Marongiu via shutterstock.com

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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