How To Have Lucid Dreams That You Can Control
In the world of dreams, you can do anything. Sadly, since few of us are able to know we're dreaming when it happens, those powers kind of go to waste.
However, lucid dreaming, the scientifically-confirmed ability to control your dreams, occurs when a person realizes they're asleep. Once you do, you can experience just about anything you wish. We'll let you come up with your own ideas about what that might be.
Though some people are more prone to lucid dreaming than others, it is something that can be learned by applying techniques to make yourself aware of the fact that you're dreaming. Give these a try, and have fun doing whatever it is you've always wanted to do. Again, we won't elaborate. Or judge.
1. Keep a dream diary
If you're comfortable with the idea of writing down sentences like "And then my old high school principal ate all the children" or "Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny were chasing me through the Gumdrop Mountains," keeping a written record of your dreams can be helpful for setting up dream recall, the ability to remember your dreams after waking up. After doing this for a while, you'll start to notice common images and subjects, and be more likely to recognize them when you're asleep. Once that happens, you can begin to manipulate the dream. Though, if you were chilling with Mulder and Scully in Candyland, you might not want to change a thing.
2. Make it a mantra
This process of having a lucid dream doesn't need to be difficult. According to Deirdre Barrett, assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, it can be as simple as telling yourself that you want to. While falling asleep, simply repeating to yourself a reminder that you want to be aware of your dreams can actually have the effect of making you realize when you're asleep. Sounds like some click-your-heels-and-repeat-"There's no place like home" nonsense, but psychology is basically wizardry to us anyway. Worth a shot.
3. Visualize yourself waking up into a lucid dream
Your imagination is a powerful tool in all areas of life. It helps you come up with creative solutions to problems, take a mini-vacation during your lunch break, and convince yourself that you were a good enough athlete to go pro if you hadn't fractured your leg senior year.
It can also give you a chance to live out those NFL dreams while you're asleep. Visualization is a tool frequently used by those who lucid dream. By constantly visualizing yourself waking up into a lucid dream as you're falling asleep, eventually you have the chance of conditioning your mind to the point where it actually happens.
4. Wake your lazy ass up
The thought of waking up any earlier than you have to might be about as appealing as waking up to find out you've transformed into Vanilla Ice, but if you're interested in lucid dreaming, you should consider it. For reasons that remain unclear, people who interrupt their sleep—waking up early and staying awake for a half hour to an hour before returning to sleep—report greater success reaching the lucid state. Going back to sleep not long after waking up makes dream recall much easier to achieve, giving you a better shot at realizing when you've slipped back into the dream world.
Please don't send us angry emails if you end up not being able to get back to sleep. You know what you're getting into.
5. Think about it as much as you can
If there's an Elvis in the world of lucid dreaming, Stephen LaBerge of Stanford University is that guy. He's studied the subject for years, and came up with the Mnemonic Induced Lucid Dreaming (MILD) technique, because what's the use of a doctorate if you're not gonna use all those big words you learned?
He recommends, when waking up, devoting as much mental energy as possible to trying to remember all the details of the dream you just had, telling yourself that when you fall back to sleep you will realize that you are dreaming. If done correctly, this method should let you fall back into the dream you were having. You can then look for signs that you are no longer awake—such as actual Elvis—triggering a lucid dream.
6. Try the superpower reality check
Seeing if you have superpowers is an easy way to figure out whether or not you're asleep. Throughout the day, try to will yourself to fly, or shoot lasers out of your eyes, or get away with wearing your underwear over your pants without being asked to leave the office. (Maybe skip that last one.)
You shouldn't actually jump off the roof to see if you can fly—if it turns out you are awake, that situation is gonna start to suck real quickly—but simply asking yourself every now and then whether or not you can do anything beyond the realm of normal human ability will turn this mental process into a habit.
Ideally, you will reach a point where you find yourself testing these theories while asleep. When you find out that you do have superpowers, that will be the heads up you need to realize that you're actually dreaming.
Then you can superhumanly beat the crap out of all those Freudian supervillains hiding out in your subconscious, like Dr. Repressed Urges and Buried Traumatic Memories Man.
7. Read all about it
Remember when your parents told you not to watch scary movies before bed because you'd have nightmares? Remember when they were extremely right about that?
You can go the same route if you're looking to lucid dream, and it thankfully won't involve thinking you're being murdered by Freddy Krueger. One method for recognizing that you're asleep and dreaming simply involves reading about the subject of lucid dreams as you go to sleep. All that info on techniques to try and experiences you can have can sink into your brain, giving you a better shot at realizing you're asleep. Then you can kick Krueger's ass.
8. Check your watch to make sure it isn't melting
A common sign that you're in a dream is a watch or clock that has the wrong time, numbers, or proportions to it. Talking clocks with bizarrely phallic hands are also a pretty clear signal.
If you're looking to lucid dream, you can use this to your advantage. Just as you checked to see whether or not you had superpowers, you should get into the habit of checking your watch throughout the day with the intention of looking for any clues that would tip you off to the fact that you're asleep. Again, you'll presumably get to the point where you end up doing this in your sleep.
When you look at your watch and find that its face is an actual face, you'll know you're dreaming. Or that you should never drop acid again.
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