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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 January 21, 2021

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

Stress affects everyone, invariably in different ways. Regardless of how stress shows up in your life, when it does, it takes over, making it difficult to stay in the present moment or show gratitude for what and who we have in our life. In the eye of the stress storm, everything is tossed around into oblivion, and self-care ideas go out the window.

However, this is the moment when self-care is the most important. When you notice that you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, or powerful emotions, it’s time to get back to a sense of balance by showing yourself love and compassion.

How Does Stress Show Up?

On a physical scale, stress tends to be behind many of our typical ailments, such as headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, or body aches and pain.[1] When we’re in stressful situations, our body activates our fight-or-flight response through the stress hormone, cortisol.

According to the American Institute of Stress, when the body is in this mode due to stress, “the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.”[2]

While our fight-or-flight response is extremely helpful when we’re in situations that risk our survival, not every situation is that dire. However, the body doesn’t know how to differentiate between such scenarios.

Rather, we become accustomed to seeing every stressful situation as life-threatening, and we become locked into this fight-or-flight response automatically. This causes us to burn out because our body is constantly fighting or fleeing from threats that are not causing us any real harm.

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On a mental and emotional scale, stress affects your thoughts, feelings, and ultimately your behavior. Everything is interconnected. When stress takes a toll on our bodies, this has a domino effect on how we process our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see correlations between depression and anxiety when it comes to dealing with stress.

Self-Care Ideas to Combat Stress

Below are five self-care ideas for combating stress in your life. Consider implementing them into your daily routine for the best results.

1. Start a Brain Dump Writing Exercise

When you’re overwhelmed with thoughts, it can become very difficult to stay present and focused. This could affect you at work, in school, or in your relationships. It’s as if your mind were filled to the brim with thoughts that are constantly competing for your attention. If left unattended, this can affect your performance or your state of being, so it’s important to turn to self-care ideas in these moments.

One exercise to get this under control is called a brain dump, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Start by getting comfortable with a pen and paper or your favorite journal. Without any special formatting or introduction, just start writing any and all thoughts that come up.

Consider your paper a blank canvas onto which you’re going to spill every thought, no matter how small or unimportant. This can look like a laundry list, a jumble of words, or a paragraph.

Don’t focus on how it looks or how well it’s organized. The idea is to give your thoughts an exit. Once they’re on paper, they’re no longer swimming in your head for attention.

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Once you have them written down, leave them as they are. We have a tendency to want to fix our thoughts. Instead, allow them to simply exist as they are—they’re not right or wrong. Consider coming back to this exercise daily or whenever you feel like you have a lot on your mind.

2. Sweat It out

There is nothing more therapeutic than moving the physical body when it feels the weight of stress. Energetically, we carry our day in our body, mostly in our neck, shoulders, and hips. If we’ve had a particularly difficult day, that energy is going to feel tense and unsettling. This is why it’s so important to move and really break a sweat!

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America[3]:

“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.”

Find what exercise regimen works for you, and commit to it for a few days per week for your mental and physical health. Scientists have also found that even 10-15 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a tremendous effect on your body. Go for a run, take a spin class or a power yoga class, or dance the stress away in Zumba. Whatever gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat is one of the perfect self-care ideas to keep the stress away.

3. Seek the Care of a Therapist

Sometimes writing out our thoughts and feelings doesn’t seem quite enough. This is common and to be expected. After all, we are complex human beings who want to understand and process our emotions on a deeper level. This is why spending time in a regular therapy session is so beneficial!

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In the presence of a professional, we can open up about what stressful situations we’re going through. We don’t have to keep our emotions bottled up, and we know that our honesty will be protected and safeguarded.

Additionally, when we’re feeling stressed, we often want to simply vent and get things off of our chest. Having someone on the receiving end who will simply listen and hold space is a truly healing gift. We can often leave the session feeling more empowered, seen, and offloaded of the stress we brought in.

Lastly, we may be able to receive guidance from our therapist on a particular situation we’re struggling with. Having someone else’s perspective on something we’re too emotionally close to can be just the right solution and a great addition to our self-care routine.

Here are more self-care ideas from a therapist: Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

4. Interrupt Your Day

When it comes to self-care ideas, this may seem like a derailing technique, but give it a shot! Interrupting your day means introducing something entirely new or random into a routine that is very monotonous or typical.

If your work or school day is the same sequence of events every single day, bringing in an interruption can be quite conducive to your productivity and creativity. This can look like pausing in the middle of the day for a yoga stretch at your desk or in your office. It could be playing your favorite playlist in-between meetings or taking a walk outside for lunch. Not only does this stir up new energy for your day, but it can also help you de-stress

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As I said above, when we’re too close to a situation or conflict, we have a harder time breaking away. We’re so emotionally and mentally invested that we don’t see how that proximity is affecting our health. So, interrupt yourself when you’re feeling stress coming on, and do something fun, random, and refreshing to feel good.

5. Get Some Energy Work Done

Energy work is anything that is being done to improve the circulation and energetic flow of the body. This could be a massage, a Reiki session, chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture[4].

Moving the body helps move the energy that is blocked or stuck. This is why exercise is so important. However, sometimes we need a session where that work is done for us by a licensed professional.

In such treatments, we have the luxury to relax and receive the benefits of the treatment, making it a beautiful way to squeeze in self-care!

You can find even more stress management techniques in the following video:

Final Thoughts

Stress is, unfortunately, a common part of every life. It affects everyone, but to what extent it affects you is personal. One thing is for sure, and that is that stress has a tremendous effect on our physical, mental, and emotional state.

This is why regular exercise is so important, as well as mental stimulation and emotional release. These self-care ideas won’t necessarily guard you from ever feeling stressed again, but they will certainly help you manage it better and offer amazing health benefits along the way.

More Self-Care Ideas

Featured photo credit: Alisa Anton via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
[2] The American Institute of Stress: How the Fight or Flight Response Works
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Physical Activity Reduces Stress
[4] Medical Acupuncture: Does Acupuncture Reduce Stress Over Time? A Clinical Heart Rate Variability Study in Hypertensive Patients

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