Dreaming is what Sigmund Freud called "the royal road to knowledge of the unconscious." The nightly narratives of dreams, whether scary, strange, or sweet, are clues to what's happening with us deep down inside.

History is full of examples citing the influence of dreams in decision-making, art creation, and general mental health. Freud thought that dreams represent our unfulfilled and repressed wishes and desires; while many artists have said the inspiration for a masterpiece came from a dream. When you have a decision to make, isn't it often a good idea to "sleep on it" before finalizing your choice?

Mysterious as it is, dreaming is a major factor in life. By pausing to study your dreams and consider their meanings, you can discover tons of new information about your self.

Dreams contain bits of real events and emotions that our minds and bodies are processing. These continue to appear nocturnally, and perhaps affect our daytime experiences as well, until we recognize them in some way.

One of the best techniques for coming to terms with your dreams is through regular dream journaling.

Keeping a dream journal involves checking in with yourself first thing every morning. This in itself is a healthy practice. Then, when you start to dig down into those images that so recently occupied your mind, the ah-ha moments multiply.

When you begin the practice, you may not remember any dreams.
But very quickly, snippets will start coming back to you, and before you know it, you'll run out of time before you run out of narrative.

Something in the ritual of journaling and in the writing itself, makes remembering your dreams increasingly easy.

Our nights are loaded to the gills with stories. The mind's fantastic storytelling contains many useful nuggets of truth. Through journaling, you can ferret out those nuggets and benefit from their intimate wisdom.

It's worth your time to follow these simple steps to productive dream journaling.

1. Designate the physical journal or notebook, and have it handy, along with a pen you really like.

2. Each night before you fall asleep, tell yourself that you'll remember your dreams.

3. If you continue to have trouble remembering, try setting your alarm for ten minutes ahead of the time you normally wake up. Before you do anything else, jot down what you remember of your dreams. It can be in narrative or bulleted form, and it doesn’t need to make sense.
4. After you tell the story of your dream to your journal, spend a few minutes writing down a few sentences of reflection about their meaning to you: strong feelings, new ideas, or unexpected events. What is this particular dream trying to tell you? There’s no right answer, just your own interpretation.
5. Every week or so, take a few minutes to track your progress. What issues has dream journaling helped you face? What new insights have you gained through examining what emerges from your unconscious? What actions have you taken as a result?
Look closely at your dreams for clues about your self. You might be surprised where they lead you!

Author's Bio: 

By Mari L. McCarthy - Journal / Writing Therapist. Are you looking for more information on journaling and its therapeutic effects? Please visit http://www.CreateWriteNow.com. My trademarked program, Journaling for the Health of It! ™, helps my clients live healthier and happier lives. I recently published an interactive ebook, 53 Weekly Writing Retreats: How to Use Your Journal to Get Healthy Now.