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Published on March 14, 2019

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 September 17, 2019

10 Simple Ways To Always Think Positive Thoughts

10 Simple Ways To Always Think Positive Thoughts

Positive thinking can lead to a lot of positive change in your life. Developing an optimistic outlook can be good for both your physical and mental health.

But sometimes, certain situations arise in life that makes it hard to keep a positive outlook. Take steps to make positive thinking become more like your second nature and you’ll reap the biggest benefits.

Here are 10 ways to make thinking positive thoughts easy:

1. Spend Time with Positive People

If you surround yourself with constant complainers, their negativity is likely to rub off on you.

Spend time with positive friends and family members to increase the likelihood that their positive thinking habits will become yours too. It’s hard to be negative when everyone around you is so positive.

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2. Take Responsibility for Your Behavior

When you encounter problems and difficulties in life, don’t play the role of the victim. Acknowledge your role in the situation and take responsibility for your behavior.

Accepting responsibility can help you learn from mistakes and prevent you from blaming others unfairly.

3. Contribute to the Community

One of the best ways to feel good about what you have, is to focus on what you have to give.

Volunteer in some manner and give back to the community. Helping others can give you a new outlook on the world and can assist you with positive thinking.

4. Read Positive and Inspirational Materials

Spend time each day reading something that encourages positive thinking. Read the Bible, spiritual material, or inspirational quotes to help you focus on what’s important to you in life. It can be a great way to start and end your day.

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Some recommendations for you:

5. Recognize and Replace Negative Thoughts

You won’t be successful at positive thinking if you’re still plagued by frequent negative thoughts. Learn to recognize and replace thoughts that are overly negative. Often, thoughts that include words like “always” and “never” signal that they aren’t true.

If you find yourself thinking something such as, “I always mess everything up,” replace it with something more realistic such as, “Sometimes I make mistakes but I learn from them.”

There’s no need to make your thoughts unrealistically positive, but instead, make them more realistic.

6. Establish and Work Toward Goals

It’s easier to be positive about problems and setbacks when you have goals that you’re working toward. Goals will give you motivation to overcome those obstacles when you encounter problems along the way. Without clear goals, it’s harder to make decisions and gauge your progress.

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Learn to set SMART goals to help you achieve more.

7. Consider the Consequences of Negativity

Spend some time thinking about the consequences of negative thinking. Often, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For example, a person who thinks, “I probably won’t get this job interview,” may put less effort into the interview. As a result, he may decrease his chances of getting the job.

Create a list of all the ways negative thinking impacts your life. It likely influences your behavior, your relationships, and your feelings. Then, create a list of the ways in which positive thinking could be beneficial.

8. Offer Compliments to Others

Look for reasons to compliment others. Be genuine in your praise and compliments, but offer it frequently. This will help you look for the good in other people.

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9. Create a Daily Gratitude List

If you start keeping a daily gratitude list, you’ll start noticing exactly how much you have to be thankful for. This can help you focus on the positive in your life instead of thinking about all the bad things that have happened in the day.

Getting in the habit of showing an attitude of gratitude makes positive thinking more of a habit. Here’re 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

10. Practice Self-Care

Take good care of yourself and you’ll be more equipped to think positively.

Get plenty of rest and exercise and practice managing your stress well. Taking care of your physical and mental health will provide you with more energy to focus on positive thinking.

Learn about these 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit.

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