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Anyone who has seen the film Inception will have wondered: how can I influence my dreams? Self-determining what you dream is called lucid dreaming. Going as deep as in Inception will probably be impossible. But with a little effort and support, you really can get a lot more out of your dreams than you think. For instance, there are several techniques you can use for this purpose. There are also natural supplements that can make your dream world a great place. Here are all kinds of tips to help you master lucid dreaming.

What are lucid dreams?

In a lucid dream, first of all, you are aware that you are dreaming. An important condition, because from that point you will be able to take control. As in Inception, it is a dream within a dream, giving you the freedom to determine what happens. The possibilities are endless: anything, in your imagination, can become reality in this dream state. From marrying your secret crush, becoming best friends with Harry Styles or Oprah, giving in to your munchies indefinitely: it's your party.

A lucid dream can involve choosing what happens next within an existing dream. You can change your environment and experiment with all kinds of situations. The potential of lucid dreaming is enormous. Think of processing traumas, having beneficial contact with loved or unreachable people, practising difficult conversations, answering life questions and feeling more confident or in control of your life.

Techniques to learn lucid dreaming: 4 tips

Most people can dream the most absurd things without a bell ringing that you are dreaming at that moment. That realisation only comes when you wake up and remember the dream, but by then, of course, it is too late to take control. However vivid the dream was, your brain is made to quickly erase its memory. 'Processing' might be a better word, as that is probably the function of dreams: to process information from the day before and emotions. But not to worry: with the techniques below, you can turn that frustration into generating lucid dreams. Take your time, though, because this will be a journey of perhaps months.

1: Dream diary

Keep a dream diary every day. Grab this immediately after waking up, and definitely don't wait until after your morning ritual or breakfast, because by then you will have mostly forgotten that dream. Do you wake up at night in the middle of a dream? Even then, it is smart not to turn over, but to grab your dream diary. Some tips:

  • Use a permanent notebook and put it next to the bed with a pen.
  • Reflect on your dreams every time you wake up. Give yourself time: even if you don't think you dreamed, something will bubble up automatically. Be consistent with this so that every time you wake up, your brain knows it is time to remember those dreams.
  • Write down the dream in present tense. So, "I am in a golden carriage with Maxima", instead of "I dreamt I was in a carriage".
  • Look for certain absurd or striking signs in your dreams that can tell you that you are dreaming. Your mobile phone changing colour, illegible texts, recurring situations, locations, objects and people: these are all dream signals.

2: Reality checks during the day

Do reality check with yourself several times during the day. If necessary, set an alarm on your phone for this. At that moment, ask yourself: am I dreaming, or am I awake? Preferably, choose 1 or 2 of the tests below that you consistently do several times a day. The more often you teach yourself to do such an attentive check in your waking life to see if you are dreaming, the more likely it is that you will do the same in your dreams. And that is the point at which you can take control in your dream.

Some examples:

  • Look at your hands. Do you recognise them 100% as yours, including any jewellery, tattoos, scars, birthmarks, hair or nail polish? You can also paint one nail in an eye-catching design. When you dream, your hands look different - at least never as detailed as 'in real life'. And you won't be able to easily incorporate a striking nail polish or ring into a dream.
  • During that reality check, look at a specific clock, note the time in your dream diary in a separate section, for example. Look away, then back at the clock and note the time again. This ritual too can creep into your dreams. And there the chances will be that the times change, or don't make sense.
  • Pinch your nose and breathe. In your dream, you will probably still be able to breathe through your nose.

3: MILD (Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams)

Before you go to sleep, repeat to yourself that you will be aware that you are dreaming. Visualise yourself in a dream and watch it become lucid. The aim is to imprint this in your mind so that you remember it as soon as you actually dream.

4: WBTB (Wake-Back-To-Bed)

This is a good technique to try when you are not going to be bothered much by this in everyday life. Get up after a few hours of sleep and stay awake for about 20-30 minutes before going back to sleep. This can increase the chances of you going straight into a dream and thereby realising that you are dreaming.

Using supplements for lucid dreaming

Besides the above techniques, you can use some smart supplements for lucid dreaming. These are natural remedies, some of which have been used for centuries by indigenous cultures for this purpose. Passion flower, for example, which not only relaxes, but is also used by shamans to get in touch with the supernatural. There are even herbs used by African and Central American tribes for lucid dreaming. South African Silene Capensis, for example. Silene Capensis, like Mexican Calea Zacatechichi and Blue Lotus, can help you remember your dreams better and provide vivid dreams.

Also, be sure to read our earlier article on natural dream promoters: Bright dreams: Top 5 Dream Herbs.

Try it out!

It will take some effort and patience on your part to learn lucid dreaming. But chances are you will reap the benefits for the rest of your life. Especially if you regularly have nightmares or struggle with sleep problems, having more control over your dream world will be able to put an end to this. For instance, if you are someone who takes hours to fall asleep, lucid dreaming can indirectly help with this. With a nice dream in prospect, you will be less tense or frustrated in bed and fall asleep a lot faster. Plenty to look forward to!