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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How Keeping a Dream Journal Can Change Your Mindset

How Keeping a Dream Journal Can Change Your Mindset

Have you ever had a dream where you felt like you were trying to tell yourself something? As if there was a message you knew if you could decipher, it would change the way you live your life?

Knowing when you are dreaming is difficult, and remembering your dreams can be a challenge within itself. However, what if you could improve your life through your dreams?

Intrigued? Well, today you are going to discover how keeping a dream journal can change your life by changing your mindset.

Dreams and Your Mental Growth

There are studies that highlight the link between your dreams and your mental development. While some of the research is in its early stages, there is conclusive evidence to support the statement that dreams and cognitive development are linked for adults.

For example, there are several emotional aspects of your dreams that may speak to your ability to cope and emotionally process information.

Based on these conclusions, some studies have started examining the dreams of children to see if the same cognitive growth can be found.[1] Each morning, the researchers would interview the children by asking them a series of questions. The researchers would then categorize each dream based on the experience, theme, and emotions the dreamer experienced.

The research supported a link that the more effective of a person’s “executive control” in their waking life, the “stronger their presence is in dreams (manifested in activities, interactions, self-effectiveness, willful effort and cognitive reflections).”

In a nutshell, the skill-sets you develop while awake, will be measurably stronger in your dreams. By tracking your dreams, you will be able to recognize traits, emotions, and actions that you would like to change. If you act timid around your supervisor or family member in your dream, take a moment to recognize if you act the same way in awake.

As you begin to understand the fears and self-doubts you experience around that person, you can take action to change those beliefs awake. As you adjust your actions while awake, you should begin to notice changes in your dream-self.

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This is because your dreams are magnifying your awake experiences, so what is subtle awake is unavoidable asleep.

When a Dream Feels More like a Nightmare

The majority of people across the world experience disturbing dreams and nightmares after experiencing a traumatic event. These nightmares can be commonplace in the victim’s life for years, if not decades later.

Associations have been found between nightmares and “significant sleep loss, nocturnal awakenings, daytime distress, and impaired functioning”.

While dreams are not replications of real life, they have been found to use the “emotional life of the previous day” as a “guiding role in the selection of the events and experiences appearing in dreams.”[2]

Another way to phrase this is that dreams have been shown to play a role in how you emotionally process information. By keeping track of your dreams and your overall mood and theme, you allow yourself to be better aware of how you processed parts of your day.

Even if you suppress your experiences when awake, they will come bursting out of your subconscious when asleep. If you desire to improve your mindset, you need to address the experiences that shape your dreams.

That is why it is a good idea to keep a journal of all of your emotional experiences. Whether you are awake or sleep, if you track and record your emotional experiences, you will notice a cause and effect.

Dreams Shape Your Reality

Have you ever found yourself crying while watching a movie? If not crying, have you ever found yourself jubilant because a particular character asked that special someone on a date?

One of the most interesting things about your mind is the fact that your conscious mind cannot tell the difference between dream and reality.

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That is why you may find yourself experiencing strong emotions throughout a movie; even though you know those experiences are not really happening.

This ultimately means your dreams play a role in how you experience the world as a whole. Within your subconscious, all of your experiences, both real and imagery are stored.[3] These experiences then shape your perception of the world around you.

Think about the last time you felt déjà vu because of a dream becoming eerily close to reality. It felt as though you were performing the same task for a second time, even though you knew it was the first opportunity you had to perform the task.

How to Start Your Dream Journal

1. Start with Your Earliest Dreams

When you start your dream journal, you do not need to start with the dreams you have tonight. You can retroactively add any dreams you can remember.

As you work to develop the themes and feelings of your dreams, see if you can recall dreams from your childhood.

Note how you felt, where you were physically sleeping, what time you usually went to bed, and what the dream entailed. By starting with your childhood dreams, you may be able to recognize small mindset shifts you experienced over time.

You may have experienced care-free dreams where you were always the hero when you were in your adolescence. However, those dreams may have transformed into you being chased or attacked as you dealt with the pressures of being a teenager.

Your dreams are often a reflection of your life experiences, so everything has the ability to impact your dreams.

2. Question Yourself

Your mindset awake and your mindset asleep share many commonalities. By allowing yourself to consciously track and study your dreams, you will learn a tremendous amount about your beliefs.

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Psychotherapists and cognitive psychotherapists both help their patients deal with traumatic experiences by working with their dreams. Dreams have been shown to provide information on relationship patterns, personal conflicts, and salient issues in the waking life of the client.

The technique the therapist will use that you can use yourself is to examine the emotions you felt during your dream through open-ended questions. This will allow you to explore yourself in a much deeper way than you may have in the past. Through open-ended questions you can examine the associations, elements of the dream, and your areas of possible development.

By asking yourself open-ended questions, you free yourself of the burden of “interpreting” your dream’s rational message. Instead, you allow yourself to experience the dream’s emotions and uniqueness.

For example, I recall having a dream where I was in a car with my dad in the passenger seat. We were in the car because I was attempting to escape my captors. Throughout the dream, I was not sure why my dad was next to me. The kidnappers were not chasing him, nor were they shooting at him.

The dream ends with me believing I have found the perfect hiding place. I backed the car almost vertically against a stone pillar, believing I was out of sight. Then out of no-where, I am shot through the car in my upper left chest area. Just before I wake up, I recall my dad saying a simple phrase to me. He said, “you need to cut back on the mistakes”.

I wake up and I am left to wonder what my dad meant by the statement, “you need to cut back on the mistakes”.

As someone who does not remember their dreams very often, this message of almost a year ago stuck with me. I did not worry about trying to rationalize the dream as a whole, instead, I focused on the feeling of failure and disappointment.

I was mad at myself for not picking a better hiding place, disappointed that I let me dad down, and frustrated by the life I lived up to that point.

The frustration stemmed mostly from me allowing fear and self-doubt to discourage me from pursing new challenges. Like the saying goes, I was dying with a song inside of me that I had not yet sang.

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As you can see, I have had a lot of time to flush out this dream and really understand the emotions behind it. If you are looking to better understand your dreams so you can change your mindset, then ask yourself these four open-questions recommended by Dr. Kelly Bulkeley:

  • What is the strangest, most bizarre part of this dream?
  • Who are the characters, and how do you interact with them?
  • What emotions appear in this dream, and when do they arise?
  • What kind of reality is revealed to you in this dream?

By answering these four-questions within your dream journal, you will be well-equipped to understand the message of your dream and how to improve your mindset.

In my case, my dream revealed the reality that I was living timid and wasting a lot of time worried about the wrong things. My dream was less of a message about me being choosing a poor hiding spot, and more of a message of me dying with a song trapped inside.

Final Thoughts

Your dreams are closely linked to your cognitive functions, emotions, and experiences while awake.

By keeping a dream journal, you allow yourself to notice emotions and feelings that may not be as apparent when you are awake. As you chronicle your dreams, make sure you focus on the feelings, not the rationale.

Write down everything you can remember from the dream each morning, how long you were sleeping, and where you were sleeping. You may also find it beneficial to record some of the experiences you had the previous day that could have contributed to the dream.

These techniques will enable you better find the catalyst for your dream, and ultimately make the proper correction to change your mindset.

More About Journaling

Featured photo credit: Bookblock via unsplash.com

Reference

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

You may be wondering how to clear your mind. Maybe you are facing a tough presentation at work and really need to focus, or perhaps you’ve got a lot going on at home and just need to relax for a few minutes. Whatever the reason, having a clear mind can help you find your center.

The only problem is that you can’t completely erase the thousands of thoughts you have each day. The goal is to be able to observe those thoughts without engaging with each one of them.

The good news is that clearing your mind and returning to the present moment comes from a simple act of acknowledging that you’re overwhelmed in the first place. A path to better mental health and overall quality of life starts here.

What Happens When You’re Not Present?

We’ve evolved to keep looking and working towards a future goal. The very nature of our careers is to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for the future. Our thoughts and, therefore, our habits and actions consistently point in the forward-moving direction, whether it’s in your relationship, career, or goals.

The point at which this becomes harmful is when we become too stuck in this forward motion and can’t reduce stress in the short or long-term. The result of this is burnout.[1] It’s a term that is most often used in the workplace, but burnout can happen in any area of our life where you feel like you’re pushing too hard and too fast.

The idea here is that you’re so engrossed in the forward movement that you take on too much and rest too little. There is no pause in the present because you have this sense that you must keep working.

On a physical plane, the body takes a real hit with burnout. You feel more muscle fatigue, poor concentration, insomnia, anxiety, poor metabolism, and so much more.

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These symptoms are the body’s way of throwing you red flags and warning you that you must slow down. But because your mind is so preoccupied with this forward momentum, it disconnects you from listening to your body’s signals. The only time you really hear them is when the signals are too loud to ignore, such as during serious illness or pain.

As we can see, not being present is something that snowballs over time. Eventually, it can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical ailments. 

To help you deal with this, you can check out Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment to see where you may be off balance. Then, you can check out the points below to keep moving in the right direction.

How Do We Come Back to the Present?

Answering this question will answer the question of how to clear your mind because they go hand in hand. There are many tools you can use to begin a mindfulness practice.

To reiterate, mindfulness is simply defined as the act or practice of being fully present.[2] Tools that allow you to step into this practice include meditation, journaling, a body-centered movement practice such as Qigong, or simple breathing exercises.

Underneath it all, however, is one technique that acts as a universal connector, and that is acknowledgment. This term may not sound like a technique, but its power truly flourishes when put into practice.

For us to come back to the present moment, we have to acknowledge that we have trailed off into the past or the future. Likewise, for us to clear our mind, we have to acknowledge that our mind is overwhelmed, distracted, or scattered.

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This simple act of pausing and catching ourselves in the moment is how we can build our acknowledgment practice. So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed at work with mental to-do lists, pause. Acknowledge your state of mind and say to yourself that you’re overwhelmed. This sends a signal to your whole being that you’re aware of what’s going on.

It cuts the cords of illusion, denial, and ignorance. You are now building your awareness of yourself, which is an incredibly potent gift.

How to Clear Your Mind

Now that you’ve acknowledged where you are and how you feel, you can take action and learn ways to clear your mind. You can take a few moments away from your desk or to-do list, and practice something to ground yourself back into the present moment.

1. Take a Walk

Grounding yourself can be as simple as taking a walk and admiring the changing of the leaves. This practice is also known as “forest bathing,” and it doesn’t necessarily need to take place in a forest. It can be in your favorite park or even walking around your town or neighborhood.

Bring your attention to the senses as you enjoy your walk. Can you tune in to the sounds of your footsteps on the earth? Can you notice the smells and take in the sights around you while staying present in the moment? Can you touch a leaf or the bark of a tree and allow the texture to teach you something new?

Such a practice does wonders in clearing your mind and bringing you back to the now. It also connects you more deeply to your environment.

2. Box Breathing

As you’re learning how to clear your mind, a mind-clearing practice may look like sitting down and going through a nourishing meditation or breath practice. Breathing is, honestly, the easiest and best way to clear your mind. Even taking a few deep breaths in and out and feeling and noticing the breath will bring you right back to the present moment.[3]

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In yoga, we call this breath Same Vrti, meaning a 1:1 breath ratio. It can also be translated as “box breathing.” The idea is to make the length of your inhales and exhales the same, as this allows you to take in more oxygen and slow down the chatter of the monkey mind. It also kicks on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion, offering many health benefits in the long run.

This will allow your heart rate to slow down so that you can reduce any anxiety you may be feeling. It also aids in digestion, as the metabolism is back on track, and helps you physically process food and drink properly.

3. Add Meditation

how to meditate and clear your mind is also helpful when you want to clear negative thoughts and relieve stress. In fact, following your breath is a meditation in itself. Adding a visual, like imagining gentle ripples on a lake or clouds passing along a beautiful blue sky, can give the mind something to attach to without running through the train of your thoughts.

On the other hand, if you are mentally overwhelmed and meditation sounds like more stress, tuning in to a guided meditation session can be alleviating. It often helps to hear the voice of a teacher or guide who can walk you into more peace and contentment with their words and energy. If you can’t find such a guide in a local studio, turn to the many meditation apps on your phone, or YouTube.

4. Write Your Thoughts

Alternatively, another powerful practice for when you’re learning how to clear your mind is sitting down and writing out all of the thoughts in your head. We call this a “brain dump,” and it is an effective method for simply releasing your thoughts so that you can mentally breathe and process things better.

Grab a piece of paper and write out all of the thoughts that are pressing for your attention. The idea is not to analyze the thoughts or fix them, but to give those thoughts an exit so that you can move on with your day without fixating on them aggressively. This can look like a laundry list of thoughts, or a diary entry.

Afterward, feel free to close your journal or rip up the paper as part of your stress management. You don’t need to hold on to what you wrote, but it does help to see the expression of what you’re holding on to mentally. Likewise, this practice is very potent to do at night before bedtime. So many of us struggle to sleep soundly with many thoughts bouncing back and forth, and this exercise before bed can allow us to enter a deeper level of rest.

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Regardless of what you do, understand that practicing mindfulness is a lifelong process. With life’s ups and downs, it’s stressful to attach yourself to the practice of being mindful and in the present moment because it’s never guaranteed that you will be present for 100% of your life.

In this practice, what matters more than anything is intention. Our intention of staying present and sticking to our mindfulness practice is what will encourage us to keep coming back to it, even when we forget.

Final Thoughts

With the thousands of thoughts that we have in our head each day, it can sound overwhelming to even tackle this and try to learn how to clear your mind. The technique, however, is powerful, simple, and effective.

It all comes down to first recognizing and acknowledging that we are overwhelmed, stressed, or far away from the present moment. That acknowledgment acts as a wake-up alarm, inviting us to examine our state of mind and take action.

In this way, not only are we clearing our minds in a manner that works for us, but we’re also building our self-awareness, which is a beautiful and powerful way of being in the world.

More Tips on How to Clear Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Elijah Hiett via unsplash.com

Reference

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