Guest Post by Chynna Laird
I figured out when I was younger that when I wrote in my journal before going to bed—talking about events of the day and getting my thoughts from head to paper—helped a little. The problem has been, as it seems to be with many creative people, I have always had tremendous difficulty turning my mind off to fall (or stay) asleep. And, frankly, when my thoughts and ideas are allowed to thrive at night, Stephen King would have a run for his money with what goes on in my dreams.
Earlier in my life, I used to have a lot of recurring dreams. One that I still remember so vividly was dieing in a car crash. The car was a model from the 1930’s. I was a passenger and remember feeling the gut-wrenching panic of knowing the car was going to crash. And it always ended the same way: Just before the car made impact, I looked at the driver who was ‘faceless’. I’d wake up in a pool of sweat, heart pounding and fighting tears.
I also had dreams where I actually told myself in my dream to wake up when the dream got too scary. After finally getting myself back to sleep, my mind plopped me right back where I’d woken myself up from earlier. It was similar to a horrible version of ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’ without Freddie Krueger!
When things got to the point where I was awake more than sleeping at night, I knew I had to find a more holistic approach to get my Z’s. That’s when I started a dream journal.
A dream journal is the same as other journals in that you’re recording your thoughts. The main difference is that with dream journaling, you’re recording what happens in your dreams. I’ve found since using one in conjunction with my regular journal, not only can I figure out where my anxiety and stress comes from that interferes with my sleep but also how that anxiety or stress manifests itself in my dreams. I find that writing it all down brings things to ‘real life’ so I can deal with them more effectively.
Here are a few tips for starting your own dream journal:
1) You can use a simple notebook but I find choosing something more special, decorative and suiting to my interests helps inspire me to dream journal. I’m sure this is purely psychological but I’d rather scribble away in my Peace and Love journal than the .88 notebook I got on sale with all my kids’ school supplies.
2) Keep it right beside your bed with your favorite writing tool so you can grab it easily and write it all down while you can still remember everything. Dreams often stay with me (which is why I keep having the same ones over and over) but sometimes when I don’t record them as soon as I wake up, they’re gone.
3) Do an entry in your regular journal, recording the events of your day or however you carry out your journal writing. This is an important step because you can refer to this entry the next day when trying to decipher your dream.
4) If/when you wake up from a dream, the first thing to do is breathe—especially when the dream is emotional or scary. Calm your body down first then you can work on calming the mind down.
5) Be as vivid as possible. Record every minute detail you can remember, including smells, tactile sensations or how your body felt. These are all really important in figuring out where the dream came from.
6) When the memories don’t come easily, try meditation. You don’t need to sit crossed-legged and say, ‘Ohm!’ (unless that’s how you roll). The whole point of meditation is to calm and connect the mind, body and soul so you can focus.
7) Don’t try analyzing your dream. There are many books out there you can refer to on dream interpretation. I’ve never checked them. Every person interprets a dream differently. What’s important is what the dream means to you not what someone else says your dream means. Thus the importance of recording in your regular journal too.
These are just a few suggestions on how you can weave dream journaling into your regular journaling routine. For me it’s helped raise my self-awareness, opened my eyes to the little things that matter that I may not always pay enough attention to and, most importantly, it’s helped me have a few more restful nights than I used to have.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
CHYNNA LAIRD is a psychology major, freelance writer and multi award-winning author living in Edmonton, Alberta with her partner, Steve, and their three daughters [Jaimie (eight), Jordhan (six), and baby Sophie (three)] and baby boy, Xander (four). Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs.
You’ll find her work in many online and in-print parenting, inspirational, Christian and writing publications in Canada, United States, Australia, and Britain. In addition, she’s authored an award-winning children’s book (I’m Not Weird, I Have SPD), two memoirs (the multi award-winning, Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey With SPD and White Elephants), a Young Adult novel (Blackbird Flies) and an adult Suspense/Thriller (The Gift to be released late 2011).
Please visit Chynna’s website at www.lilywolfwords.ca, as well as her blogs at www.the-gift-blog.com and www.seethewhiteelephants.com, to get a feel for her work and what inspires her.