One of the most important things for any aspiring lucid dreamer to work on is the ability to recall your dreams each morning. In both my own scientific research and in many other studies, we see that general dream recall ability is in fact the strongest predictor of successfully learning how to have lucid dreams, and so this is something that you're definitely going to want to work on.
Why is dream recall so important?
The reason dream recall is so important is that every time you recall a dream, you're actually building a store of long-term memories about what it's like to be in your dreams. This helps you become more familiar with the unique characteristics of your own dreams, and that in turn makes it much more likely that you will be able to notice you're dreaming next time you're in a dream and therefore become lucid.
One way to think about this is that you're setting up a two-way exchange of information when you recall your dreams. You're transferring information about the dream over to your conscious mind and then this in turn makes it easier for you to transfer the qualities of your conscious mind of being more self-aware over into the dream state and have more lucid dreams.
A thought experiment…
Now, before we look at techniques for improving your dream recall, I'd like you to do a little thought experiment with me. I'd like you to imagine that it's late at night, that you're lying in bed, and that you're just about to drift off to sleep. Now the question is, what is the next thing that you're going to do after you fall asleep?
Take a moment to think about this.
Is it waking up to an alarm in the morning? Is it dragging yourself out of bed to have a cup of coffee and then go to work? Is it a project that you're working on, or is it a big assignment or a meeting you have to go to?
These are the kinds of answers that most people give when I ask this question. However, most of these people are forgetting that between the point when they go to bed and when they wake up in the morning, they're actually going to have two to three hours of amazing dream experiences!
It's such a shame that in our modern culture, most people don't put a lot of value on their dreams, and so it's no wonder that many people find it hard to record them. Dream recall begins before you've even had any dreams. It starts the night before by setting up dream recall.
How to set up dream recall before bed
The first thing you can do is just take a moment before bed to really appreciate the fact that you're about to have two to three hours of wonderful experiences in your dreams. Even if you don't remember all of them when you wake up, when you're having them, they're most likely going to feel just as real as waking life, and there's no knowing what's going to happen. So, give yourself a moment to really appreciate this, to be excited and anticipate the dreams to come, and look forward to these experiences.
When you set up dream recall like this, it sends your unconscious mind a powerful message that dreams are important and valuable to you. And of course, when we think something is valuable and important, it makes it much easier to remember it.
Another thing that you can do just before bed is make a deliberate intention to remember your dreams the next morning. To do this, simply spend a few minutes reciting the phrase “I will remember my dreams tomorrow”. As you do this, put real feeling and intention into those words. Really feel your desire to remember your dreams. Recite the words at a comfortable pace, and to make your intention even stronger, you can use a visualization.
So, as you're repeating the phrase, imagine yourself waking up in the morning, recalling lots of content, and then writing it out in your dream journal – all kinds of beautiful experiences that you're going to have during the night. If you do these things before bed, you're going to make it much easier to recall your dreams in the morning.
How to recall your dreams when you wake up
Now, when you do wake up, the way to recall your dreams is to first really focus on your dreams, and nothing else. Try to avoid thinking about what you're going to have for breakfast or what you're going to do at work that day, and just really give yourself the time and the space to focus on your dreams.
If you need to go to the bathroom you can get up and go do that, but ideally you'd want to stay in your bed and stay in the same position that you were in when you first woke up. Spend at least a few minutes trying to recall your dreams in that position.
Now, some people will recall information easily straight away, but sometimes it'll take a little while for something to come up. Even if you can only remember a fleeting image or a vague feeling, that's still enough to work on because what you can do next, is start to question what you can remember.
Specifically, you want to ask yourself “what was happening before that”? So, ask yourself, “what was I just doing?”, and then once you can remember that, “what was I doing before that?” “How did I get to that location?” You can ask things like, “was I with anyone?” or “what was I feeling?” or “what was I doing?” When you question the experience like this, sometimes you can replay a very long dream in reverse.
Now, if you get stuck and you're having trouble recalling anything, there's a simple trick that can make it easier. Simply try moving to another position that you might have been sleeping in during the night. For example, if you normally sleep on your side and you wake up on your left side, after a few minutes of recalling dream content on your left side, simply move over to your right side and see if anything new comes up.
The reason this works is due to elaborative encoding, which basically means that we can recall things much more easily when we're in the same position and the same location as when the experience originally occurred. This is why it's often recommended that, for example, if you're studying for an exam, you should set up your study space so that it resembles the exam room as closely as possible. So, you want to have a chair and sit upright, have a table in front of you with your water and your papers in front of you. This is going to make it easier to recall what you're memorizing when you're later in the exam room. The same principle applies the dream recall, by being in the same position that you're in when you had the dreams.
How to record your dreams
Now, once you've finished recalling your dreams for at least 10 minutes, the next step is to record them. Many people like to do this using a dream journal and to write them out by hand, but you can also type them up on a computer. Or, you can use a voice recognition app on your phone. You'll find a recommendation of one to choose in your course guide.
When you record your dreams, I recommend you write them out in first-person perspective, as though you're experiencing them in the present tense. So, write it out as if it is actually happening as you're writing it. Here's an example. let's say that what's happening right here is a dream, while I'm making this video. This is how I’d record it:
“I'm sitting in my chair. I look up at the camera and realise that I'm making a video about lucid dreaming. This immediately makes me think, ‘could I be dreaming?’ I do a reality test straight away, and I confirm that I'm not in a dream. I then look up at the camera and decide that this is probably enough of an example to then go back to making the video.”
So, you see in that example, that it's in the first-person perspective and I'm recording it as though it's actually happening. You'll also notice that I did a reality test as soon as I thought about lucid dreaming. It's really good to always do reality tests anytime you think you might be dreaming, just to help build the habit.
Identifying your dreamsigns
Once you’ve finished writing out your dreams or recording them with an app, the next step is to identify any potential dreamsigns that might have occurred. A dreamsign is simply any recurring element of the dream that might be happening in more than one dream over time. Different people tend to have different recurring dreamsigns, but there are some that are very common for a lot of people.
Dreamsigns usually fall into one of four categories. First, we have Internal experiences. Then, we have Form. Then Action, and finally Context.
Internal experiences refer to any thoughts or feelings or physical sensations that regularly occur in your dreams. Examples include feeling like you're moving in slow motion, which is very common. It could also be the urge to use the bathroom. A lot of people have dreams about that. Or it could be feeling afraid, if you're a person that has a lot of recurring nightmares.
The next category is Form. This refers to the specific objects or people that might occur. It could be a change in form, or it could even apply to yourself. So, you might be in the form of an animal, or you might have a specific person from your past regularly coming up in your dreams. Childhood friends are a very common example. Or, it could be a distortion or an alteration of form such, as one object turning into another or blurry images, or maybe impossible geometry that couldn't really occur when you're awake.
The next category is Action. This can be your own actions, such as trying to escape or running or swimming, or it could be the action of another object or another character in the dream.
Finally, we have Context. Context refers to the situation or the location that you're in. A common example of a context dreamsign is being at the dentist. Another is needing to use the bathroom, and with this example you can see that a dreamsign can actually fall into more than one category. Needing to use the bathroom could be Context, if you're in the bathroom, and it could be Action, because you're using the bathroom. It could also be an Internal experience because you're having the urge to use the bathroom.
Don't worry too much about identifying which category your dreams signs fall into – that doesn't really matter that much. What's more important, is to just use them as a guide so that you know what to look for when you are reading over your dream narratives in the morning.
Once you've identified your dreamsigns, the final step in the morning is to complete your Morning Logbook. The first question will ask you about your dream recall, and on the page afterwards you'll see dream recall rating instructions. Now, this isn't just designed for this course. I actually designed this measure as a special way to record dream recall during my PhD in psychology. I wanted to create a measure of dream recall that didn't just count the number of dreams that you had, but actually gave a more sensitive measure of how much content you can recall each morning. This is a valuable tool because it allows you to track your dream recall over time, and so you will be able to see if there are any changes or improvements.
The benefits of recalling your dreams
As you continue to practice your dream recall ability, keep in mind that there are many benefits to this in addition to learning lucid dreaming.
For one thing, dream recall is a very powerful memory training exercise. You're specifically trying to recall hard to retrieve content, and so by doing this on a regular basis it's likely to improve your memory ability.
Another benefit of dream recall is that as you read over your dreams and think about them, you're likely to identify little ideas and insights that you might otherwise have forgotten. If ever anything like this comes up, focus in on it and see what you can do with the idea or the inspiration. When you do this, not only will that be beneficial in and of itself, but it will also help you to feel more value for your dreams, and that in turn makes it easier to recall them.
Even if you can't recall any content on a given morning, it's still valuable to spend time on your dream recall because you're basically doing ten minutes of mindfulness practice. It's a little bit like a meditation where you are focusing and concentrating on just one thing, which in this case is trying to recall your dreams. This is going to improve your general ability to concentrate and focus, as well as helping your lucid dreaming training, so it's a very valuable exercise to do each morning.
Worst case scenario, if you find it hard to recall your dreams, don't worry – this is extremely common, and virtually everyone can improve their dream recall over time if they simply stick with the techniques. So just dedicate yourself to the exercise, try not to get frustrated or impatient, and just put aside those ten minutes each morning to develop your dream recall!
If you've enjoyed this video and if you're interested in learning how to have lucid dreams, then I invite you to check out my Lucid Dreaming Training Course. My course is based on the latest scientific research, including my own International Lucid Dream Induction Study. The course is also based on my experience of teaching people all over the world how to have lucid dreams one-on-one via Skype. I’ll teach you my best tips and tricks for learning lucid dreaming, and at the end of the course I'll show you how to make your own personalised lucid dreaming training program based on the techniques that were most effective for you. If you'd like to find out more about the course, simply visit:
Thank you for watching!