How to Remember Your Dreams and Uncover What They Mean, According to an Expert
Ever woken up from a fascinating but totally perplexing dream, only to have the memory drift away from you in seconds? We've all been there.
After some interesting dreams of our own, we were inspired to discover more. We weren't just curious about how to recall dreams, but also how to make sense of them. That's why we consulted Lauri Loewenberg, certified dream analyst and author of Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life, who dropped some significant wisdom regarding how we can all become experts on the meanings of our own dreams.
Sweety High: What dreams do we remember, and which ones do we usually forget?
Lauri Loewenberg: We tend to remember the dreams we wake up from. If your alarm wakes you in the middle of a dream, you're likely to remember it. And if you wake up from a dream because it scares you awake, you're definitely going to remember it.
We actually dream about every 90 minutes throughout the night, every night. We have a good handful of dreams all night long, but we rarely remember them all. Dreaming is a natural, necessary function of the brain. Even if you think you're one of those people who doesn't dream, you dreamed just last night.
SH: What's the best way to better remember your dreams?
LL: When you wake up, whether it's in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or you're waking up for good in the morning, the key to remembering your dreams is to stay in the exact same position you woke up in. That's the position you were in while you were dreaming, and if you move your body, it's like unplugging yourself from the dream.
Stay put for three to five minutes and quiet your mind. Don't think about anything and let the dream come back to you. That's all it takes. Make that a habit every time you wake up, and before you know it, you can start remembering more and more of your dreams. Then you want to write it down, because if you don't, it'll probably be gone after breakfast.
SH: Are they any particular symbols or ideas we should pay attention to in our dreams?
LL: Everything in your dream is important. Nothing is random, so everything in your dream means something, and is connected to something going on in your life right now. In particular, pay attention to anything that's said in a dream. Whatever conversation you have, whatever advice is given, whatever is said, no matter who is saying it, should be closely analyzed because that is actually something you're telling yourself. Even if you're having a conversation with Ariana Grande, it's really a conversation you're having with yourself. Apply that conversation to your real life right now and see how that makes sense for you.
SH: What's the best way to determine the meaning behind all of the different aspects of our dreams?
LL: Keep a dream journal right alongside a day journal. It would be really powerful to start doing that now and continue it for the rest of your life. What I recommend is writing down your day before you turn out the light and go to sleep. Write down how you felt about the day, and what your biggest emotion was, what your biggest struggle was and what you're most proud of today. Then turn out your light, go to sleep, and when you wake up, do that little trick where you don't move so you can capture your dreams.
Then, write down your dream in the morning. I recommend keeping what you write down for the day on the left side of the journal, and then writing about your dream on the right side. Then you have your day and your dream right next to each other. You'll find that your dream will be commenting on your day. With them side by side, it'll help you connect the dots.
For example, if you end up getting attacked by a bear in your dream, look at the day on the left side. What happened that day that made you feel attacked? Was your mom being really negative toward you? Was your older brother or sister being a jerk? Or were you being too hard on yourself? Maybe you're the bear attacking yourself.
When you do this, you'll start noticing patterns in your dreams. Maybe you'll realize you dream about black dogs a lot. If you keep track of your dreams, you might notice that the black dog appears every time you see your ex in real life. Maybe your dog represents the ex. Not only is it fun to solve the puzzle and put the pieces together, but what you're also doing by keeping the day journal and dream journal is you're documenting both sides of your mind.
If you continue to do this your whole life, you're going to get a lot of insight into yourself. You'll understand yourself better and you'll understand why you act the way you do, why certain things upset you and why certain things don't. Then, you can work to improve on the things that aren't that great about you and start to really celebrate the things about you that are wonderful.
Need more dream insight? Click HERE to find out what your stressful dreams about school mean—particularly in the summer.