Why and how you should listen to your dreams for inspiration

Every person on the Earth has dreams, but they are more than just weird stories and images. Dreams are your brain's way of processing your memories and thoughts. As such, they can provide valuable inspiration and lessons that could impact your waking life. Famous scientists and artists have cited their dreams as a source of inspiration for a new discovery or masterpiece. You can learn from your dreams too.

For example, Christopher Nolan got the idea for Inception from his own lucid dreaming. "You can look around and examine the details and pick up a handful of sand on the beach," Nolan said. "I never particularly found a limit to that; that is to say, that while in that state your brain can fill in all that reality. I tried to work that idea of manipulation and management of a conscious dream being a skill that these people have. Really the script is based on those common, very basic experiences and concepts, and where can those take you?"

And Albert Einstein was inspired to formulate the theory of relativity after dreaming about cows and an electric fence. Einstein dreamed he was on a farm and saw a group of cows huddled near an electric fence. The farmer turned on the electric fence and Einstein saw the cows all jump back at once. But the farmer saw the cows jump back one at a time, like a wave in a football stadium. From this, Einstein thought through the metaphor. The cows became atoms and Einstein drafted the theory of relativity.

Many people think of sleep as an annoying part of human life. It cuts into hours that you could be using for something else. However, sleep is incredibly valuable to your health and to your brain. While you're sleeping, your body clears out chemicals from your brain and goes through processes that create long-term memories. It is these processes that create dreams.

The majority of dreams don't really make sense on the surface level. They're usually a jumble of images you've seen, emotions you've experienced and random plot points that would probably never happen in real life. This is because the part of your brain that controls rationality is turned off during sleep. That said, reflecting back on your dreams can actually be very useful. These random images and characters aren't complete nonsense. Because they are based in your memories and emotions, your dreams are often packed with real meaning.

But how do you decipher them? Try to stay away from “dream decoding." There are plenty of sites that tie specific images, animals and places to different meanings. While some may be relevant to you, these translations are not universal from person to person or even from culture to culture. Dream decoding websites are a good place to start if you're completely lost, but take them with some salt.

Your dreams can often help you pinpoint the things in your life that you might need to change. If you feel particularly stressed in your dreams, that could be because you're facing large amounts of it in your waking life. If you experience recurring dreams, you had best pay attention to them. They are something your brain continues to process over several nights and are therefore probably pretty important.

You already have everything you need to decipher your dreams. All you need is to take a moment to remember them. Whenever you wake up, give yourself a moment to recall your dream. Try to remember what happened in it and how you felt. When you can remember a dream clearly, take it a step further and try to apply themes and symbols in the dream to your real life.

To find out more about the ABCs of what's in your dreams, click here!

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