The Importance of Dreaming (And Sleeping!)…
Lately I’ve been dreaming of Istanbul. Often I’m there in the sprawling, ancient, thriving city full of contradictions and beauty. A cradle of western civilization and a place where geographically, at least, east meets west. I love Istanbul. To me, it is the most compelling of places. I love the people, the culture, the rich and fascinating history, the art, the food, and geography and geology of it. It is a very special place. Last time I was there was in October with my brother, so why am I, of late, dreaming of Istanbul almost nightly. When not dreaming of Istanbul, I dream of oceans and beaches. Swimming under the waves, escaping, coming out onto the beach, walking to hotels. Sometimes it’s a beach reminiscent of my childhood one in coastal South Carolina, and other times, it’s the big, big waves of California, crashing onto cliffs, like in Malibu. I wouldn’t say I exactly feel safe in the midst of the big waves, looking out at all this energy. Forceful energy. I’ve always dreamed of water. What about you? What do you dream of? What’s interesting about dreams is how necessary they are to our well-being, to our health. Just like sleep – I’m a big fan of the 8 to 9 hour sleep! – we need dreams.
Why are dreams so important? Well, “there’s increasing evidence that our dreams are not neural babble, but are instead layered with significance and substance. The narratives that seem so incomprehensible — why was I running through the airport in my underwear? — are actually careful distillations of experience, a regurgitation of all the new ideas and insights we encounter during the day.” (From Jonah Lehrer in the New York Times)
Scientists are now discovering that R.E.M. sleep, the time when we dream, isn’t just necessary for sifting through our day, helping us make sense of what we need to remember in the long-term, it’s an essential part of creativity. From a paper published by Sara Mednick, a neuroscientist at the University of California, “This study shows that compared with quiet rest and non-REM sleep, REM enhances the integration of unassociated information for creative problem solving. Creativity has been defined as ‘the forming of associative elements into new combinations which either meet specified requirements or are in some way useful…'”
This is where sleep is critical to creative problem solving and creating new and wonderful things and ideas. We need that time for unassociated information to float freely around our brain, with no purpose, no direction from us. We’re assimilating and puzzling disparate bits of information that in our waking life we would never connect – it’s not logical, we would say! – and we would be right but we would miss out on something possibly brilliant. This is why sleep, meditation, and doing nothing are so key to our lives as creative beings. We are creators, and we need the downtime to process and to create.
Sleeping and dreaming are also powerful tools in creating the world you want. This is why oftentimes it’s less interesting what you’re dreaming about – hello, Istanbul! – than how you feel in the dream. Are you edgy, as I sometimes am in my dreams, anxious, fretful, worried, or are you feeling powerful and at ease? How you feel in your dreams directs you to how you feel about your life… the life you’re creating. And they are a powerful indicator of how to tweak your life, get yourself into the flow, so to speak, so that you are creating the life you really, truly want.
So what else can we learn from dreams? Well, I especially like this advice from Kelly Sullivan Walden of DreamClouds.com. Her advice is to see yourself and your life through the eyes of the dreamer. From this perspective, you’re less attached and more able to appreciate and approach life with a sense of wonder, excitement, even joy. You don’t take your dreams that seriously, do you? So what if you felt that way about your life and yourself? It’s kind of like approaching your life with a sense of what else is possible?, and almost always feeling a sense of possibility. If I’m not so attached to how I’m perceived and to the outcome, I can play a little more in the moment. Find a little joy. And this is another awesome thing dreams do for us. They teach us.
Here’s the advice from Kelly Sullivan Walden of DreamClouds.com I really like:
- See the person in the interaction as an aspect of yourself.
- Ask for the awareness of the gift or blessing (in disguise) from the interaction.
- Redirect the scene in your mind’s eye to unfold the way you would prefer.
- Embody the feeling tone of your newly envisioned dream.
- Imagine how you would feel if you became lucid in this dream…and act accordingly.
Your dreams serve you well. Focus on how you feel in your dreams – just like in waking life, you focus on how you feel. And remember: the stronger emotion, the more it matters. The better you feel, the better you feel.
And if you’re not sleeping well, please contact me at Happiness Series, I’d love to help. We have a supplement program as part of our Ageless Diet™ Lifestyle that offers serotonin support and helps promote a good night’s sleep and dream.
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About the Author: Tania Van Pelt is the creator of Happiness Series. After working in film, she realized that creating content for an online world that moves and inspires people is where it's at. She loves the immediacy and the vibrancy of working online. Tania created Happiness Series because she wants to empower people to live healthier, longer, more joyful lives through fitness, nutrition, stress management and integrative wellness. After years of research and practical application, she is excited about the newest project, Ageless Diet™. Ageless Diet is a lifestyle that promotes an Ageless You. Because getting older doesn't have to mean aging, and losing weight doesn't have to be hard. Happiness Series and Ageless Diet are going in new directions, bringing people together in beautiful settings with retreats and conferences. Books and a cooking series are soon to follow. Tania also recently completed her sitcom web/TV series pilot Employees Only, at http://employeesonly.tv.