How To Keep And Understand Your Dream Journal

A lighted pen and rubber bracelet are useful for keeping a dream journal.

Why keep a dream journal?

If you know both the enemy and yourself, you need not fear the results of 100 battles. — Sun Tzu

Sounds good, but how do you know the enemy?

Three words: your dream journal.

Keeping a dream journal helps you make sense of many things: the world, your friends, your life, and more.

In understanding the quote above, it’s helpful to think of the enemy as having many different faces and being many different things. The enemy can be physical: a bully at school, a rival, a boss, or a friend. The enemy can also be non-physical: an addiction; self-doubt, or a habit you want to break; a deadline, self- or other-imposed.

It can also be a goal. You are the protagonist in the story of your life. What you do, what you’re concerned with, is the antagonist.

 The antagonist Sun Tzu writes of is the enemy. The enemy is vital. To have a story, the protagonist needs an antagonist. In a story, the character always has a problem. If you don’t have a problem, there’s no conflict. You don’t do much more than exist.

Like both sides of an equation, you need your problems, and your problems need you. The equation has balance. So do you and your “enemies.” It’s best to admit that and realize, in one form or another, they’re never going to go away. 

Unless you’re full of despair, you want to prevail in your struggles to the point that you can. 

In the quote above, Sun Tzu, the master strategist, says the way to do that is to know your opponent and yourself. Know your enemies. Knowing your enemies leads to owning your enemies. Keeping a dream journal can help you truly know and understand yourself. All of yourself. Even the hidden part: your subconscious mind. It can also help you see the enemy as well — to a point. To be creative requires confidence. You supercharge your creativity by increasing your confidence, and you do that by knowing yourself better, both your strengths and weaknesses.

Your dream journal reflects your mind

Your brain is physical—a thing. Your mind isn’t physical. Your mind — the thing that makes you, you — has two main parts: the conscious mind and the subconscious (for a full discussion of the parts go here). The conscious mind is like a warehouse supervisor. It’s in control all day long telling your body and the subconscious where to go and what to do.

The subconscious mind is like the warehouse itself. There’s a lot of stuff stored there: some interesting; some mundane; some funny, some downright scary. Everything that isn’t being actively examined by your conscious mind rests in the subconscious. It stores your experiences, your beliefs, your skills, all the situations you’ve been through, and all the images you’ve seen. There’s more locked up in there than your conscious mind realizes. 

If you’re a normal, healthy person, these items usually only come to light in dreams. You’re only aware of these items if you actively keep a dream journal. If you’re not quite so mentally healthy, these items come out in other ways.

The Dream Recovery System is a guideline for remembering more of your dreams in greater detail than you’ve ever done before. Doing so taps into the power of your mind. Once mastered, the effects on your life can be powerful. You’ll gain perspective on your experiences, your likes, and dislikes your relationships and life itself. You might find yourself with a billion-dollar ideaabsolutely mystified or just incredibly entertained! Sometimes your dreams will puzzle you. Either way, remembering your dreams is well worth it. The Dream Recovery System makes them more accessible. Your subconscious is always at work, weighing, analyzing, and storing information in the background. It stays there, overridden by your conscious mind. The process helps bring this information out where it can be inspected. It is there you find enlightenment.

If you already have no trouble remembering your dreams, the Dream Recovery System can teach you how to make sense of them so you can build a better life.

How to keep a dream journal

Use the 10-step Dream Recovery System and write your dreams at the time you have them in a notebook or a particular journal you have dedicated for the purpose. In our shop, we have a dream journal kit for sale. The kit contains a lighted pen, a memory band, and a program to help you get the most out of your sleeping and dreaming.

Soothi has some beautiful handmade leather journals for sale, too.

The Dream Recovery System (10 Steps)

  1. When you lay down for bed, tell yourself you’re going to remember your dreams when you wake up. Tell yourself you have to write your dreams down. Visualize your dream journal. In your mind’s eye, see yourself writing and recording your dreams upon waking. Sometimes it helps to have some kind of object present to remind you. People have used objects like a rubber band on the wrist or even a note. The sooner you reorient, the more likely you are going to be able to remember the content of your dreams. The rubber bracelet is also useful to snap to help wake you when you feel your will to write your dream slipping away. 
  2. Keep your dream diary nearby: under the bed; under your pillow; on the nightstand. You want to be able to remember to reach for it and easily find it when you wake up. Use a paper journal, not a cell phone or computer. Don’t use a voice recorder either. Sometimes you’re going to have dreams with symbols, and you can’t record those symbols accurately.
  3. Prepare for writing when you wake. Have a pen or pencil handy along with a little nightlight. Ideally, you’ll have a lighted pen. This is so you can begin writing immediately upon waking with the page you’re going to write on bookmarked, perhaps with the lighted pen. You don’t have to keep the light on when you’re using the pen. It does help to see where you’re going to write when you first start writing.
  4. Upon waking, try to start writing by creating a title for the dream. It can be as simple as one word, say, “Falling” or “Dogs.” A single name helps focus your thoughts. Don’t worry about the date. You can add that later. You can also title the dream then. As you build skill, you can write a few keywords about the dream and go back and finish writing it down when you’re done. The longer you wait, the less you’ll remember, so go back as soon as you can.
  5. If you don’t remember the dream or you don’t believe you had one, write “No Dream To Record” as the title. Date the entry. While this may be disappointing, it’s vital for developing the habit of using the Dream Recovery System. Be patient! Keeping a dream journal is a habit like so many other things. Habits take time to develop.
  6. Once you have the title, use the acronym PACTREPS to help you note critical details from the dream. Details are the key to understanding the dream. Dreams don’t always have a plot, and they often don’t make objective sense. That’s okay. Often the importance lies in the symbolism. It’s helpful to remember this acronym and what it stands for.


P = People — Were there any people in the dream? Did they do anything?

A = Animals — Were any animals prominently featured?

C = Colors — Were there any colors that stood out?

T = Modes of Transport — Was a journey involved?

R = Recurring — Did you ever have this dream or a similar one before?

E = Emotion — How did the dream make you feel emotionally?

P = Plot — Was there a plot to the dream? It’s okay if it didn’t make sense.

S = Setting & Sound — Where did the dream take place? Were there any sounds or songs playing?

The Dream Recovery System Dream Journal includes the acronym on each page along with space for illustrations. Use this prompt to help you recall details from the dream. The more you can remember, the easier it is to understand what the dream means.

7. Reflect. What did the dream mean to you? What did the particular item in the dream mean to you? It’s best if you determine this for yourself. The subconscious is inclined to speak in symbols. Only you know what those symbols mean.

8. Be patient. This is a process of self-discovery. That takes time.

9. If you are truly stuck, you can consult a dream dictionary or visit for dream analysis examples. The meanings of dreams tend to clarify themselves eventually.

10. Practice dream recall and write in your dream journal every time you go to sleep. Like anything, you’ll get better with practice. Record every dream you can. Sometimes dreams seem trivial right after you’ve had them. You can be writing them down, thinking to yourself about how stupid the dream was. Later, when you’re looking back over your dream diary, you can be blown away by the insight shown by that dream.

Paper is better than a computer for a dream journal

Keeping a dream journal online doesn’t work as well as keeping one in a notebook.

It’s difficult to draw on a website or in a phone app when you have to illustrate a symbol, cartoon, or drawing to show from your dream. Depending on who you are, this can be quite common. As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

It’s also quicker to write in a notebook than to log onto a secure website and input a user name and password. Keeping it in a journal is also less disruptive to your sleep. It’s even better for personal security as long as you can conceal it from prying eyes. Recording descriptions of your dreams may work for some people, but they’re difficult to go back through unless the intention is to write them down the next morning. Again, you have the disadvantage that you can’t illustrate any scene from your dream.

Furthermore, you’re more likely to wake up your bed partner by speaking into a recorder. Keeping your journal in a notebook also forces you to be more concise. Your interpretation is the best. However, if you want feedback on your dream, you’re free to share them on sites like and’s dream community.

If you’re worried about writing your dreams in a dream journal because somebody might read them, most people aren’t as interested in your thoughts as you might think. Most people wouldn’t understand them the way you would. It’s harder, especially in the beginning. You can always write in your dream diary later, keying in on a few key details to aid your memory.

Dream Journaling Equipment

The ideal pen for keeping a dream journal is a pen with a light on the end. That kind of pen allows you to find the portion of paper you want to write on easier than an unlighted pen. Your entry will be easier to read. If it’s too bright, add some tape. If you don’t have a lighted pen available, writing a few words with a regular pen in the dark can be helpful. You can use a regular spiral notebook or any other book with blank pages for recording your dreams. Be sure to head back to our dream journaling page for a roundup of commentary on keeping a dream journal. This can help you make the most out of your dreams.

For another take on keeping a dream journal, see Ann Faraday’s rules at the end of this article.

Keeping a dream journal is an exciting hobby that can have many powerful benefits in your life. There are many ways to go about it only limited by your imagination. We always love hearing how you go about it and about any questions you have.

Sweet dreams!