If you think happy thoughts all day, will you have sweet dreams? If you have sweet dreams, will you have a more pleasant day? Psychologists believe that there is a great deal of continuity, or overlap, between our dreaming and waking worlds, and our states of consciousness and unconsciousness. More and more research supports the view that our nocturnal life affects our overall well-being.
When your mother encouraged you to have “sweet dreams” while tucking you into bed at night, she was influencing your thought process by re-enforcing positive thinking. She even helped you visualize happiness with the image of the mythical sandman sprinkling magical sand on your eyes.
Even nightmares may make you a happier person. Research has shown a positive relationship between nightmares and coping mechanisms. Some dream analysts believe that nightmares are a mechanism for relieving stress. Dwelling on the darker side of life, however, can also introduce negativity. Those who play video games are more likely to have bad dreams and stress in their lives, according to various studies in the Dreaming journal. Accordingly, those with higher levels of stress are more apt to have nightmares.
Creative Problem-Solving through Dreams
Sweet or scary, our mothers taught us that we can take control of the world we visit at night. Notably, dreams can help us solve problems. Many famous scientists, artists, and musicians have solved problems and been inspired to create masterpieces through dreaming, according to Dr. Deirdre Bennett, Harvard Medical School psychologist and editor of the Dreaming journal. To partake in nocturnal problem fixing, Dr. Bennett suggests visualizing the problem before you fall asleep. For more useful guidelines from this international dream expert, see Creative Problem-Solving through Dreams.
Carl G. Jung, the psychoanalyst who analyzed several thousand dreams over his career, taught us that “Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” To help us in interpretation, Jung provided valuable research into dream symbols, meanings and types, which many Jungians have built upon. Jung viewed dreams as a way of balancing the negative and positive aspects of our lives to restore harmony.
To interpret our dreams, we have to remember them. Following are a few tips:
Hypnotize yourself. Before dozing off, repeat several times, “I will remember my dreams.” It works!
Relax your mind and let the dream flow into your consciousness. Do not try and force memories of the dream. If you do, the dream will slip back into your unconscious.
Capture the dream as soon as you awake. Place a pen and paper on your night table.
Dream dictionaries can help you interpret symbols, imagery, and meaning.
When Your Dream Matters
For overall well-being, we need to stay in tune with our Circadian rhythm—the biological clock that keeps our sleep patterns and metabolism in sync. Our sleep-wake patterns follow the 24-hour solar day-night cycle. Upsetting our Circadian rhythm can affect our balance of REM (rapid eye movement), also known as dream sleep, and delta sleep, a deep sleep. Getting adequate amounts of sunlight and avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine and alcohol, can help balance your dream and waking life.