Living the Sweet Life: Finding Your Good Stuff

By Alisa Murray
Nationally recognized
portrait artist and
award-winning columnist.

How’s your dream life? Mine is alive and well thank you very much! I think I probably have at least ten children’s books flowing around in this head of mine, and the numbers keep growing. There’s one where I am the head of a ship, and the ocean is filled with screaming babies.  Those littles are driving me crazy, but I somehow manage to use my elastic stretchy arms and grab each and every one of them out of the ocean into a big blanket that is covering the entire ship deck. I’d be willing to bet Freud would have had a lot to say about what that one might mean! Truthfully though, our dreams matter, and even more importantly, they can show us how to solve problems, assist us with grief and generally make our inner self an interesting thing to study.

In the study of the brain and its activity, dreaming is just as important as our waking states. For when we dream, we are unlocking our creativity. Most recently psychologists have posted that we consolidate our memories and try to work through perceived threats during sleep state. Over the past twenty years through many studies, there have been some significant strides in learning what our dreaming states mean and how we can use the information we gather during sleep to benefit us in our daily lives. The cortex that we know associates with imagery and movement perception is heightened during sleep, while the parts that allow us to recoup socially inappropriate and logical thoughts are depressed. Perhaps this is why often you will hear someone say they have dreamt something “wild.”  It has no logic whatsoever because in our wonderful dream state, there is absolutely no logic, and there’s no need for it, because after all, you are dreaming!

Some of the best known art and science have come from dreams. Did you know that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Dmitry Mendeleev’s layout of the periodic table and Friedrich August Kekule’s discovery of benzene’s structure all came from a dream? So, I think it would be of great interest to each of us to take a few notes down when we wake up, just in case one of us happens to be a genius and just doesn’t know it quite yet!

A few years ago when I began to consider myself a serious writer, I started leaving little notebooks on my nightside table and always carried one in my purse. That way when something popped into my head, I could write it down. There have been a few nights that I have forgotten to get up and write the good stuff down, only to find that in the morning, it was all gone.  I know it’s still in my head; I just can’t access it!  Can we say “frustrating!”  You know that feeling, too, I am sure. So that was when I made the commitment to not lose the good stuff by simply being lazy or sleepy. It has paid off.  Granted I have a lot of very weird and sometimes socially unacceptable stories or episodes that I figure when I am retired will make for some great writing exercises, or at the very least a great little story to develop and tell my grandchildren. I can see though after analyzing thoughts where I have worked through problems. It is there in the good stuff along with the random and sometimes strange.

Training your brain to catch the good stuff is healthy and fun. Here’s a few ways to make sure what you are dreaming is remembered, so you can thoughtfully contemplate what subconsciously you are going through – or use the information to become the next big thing!

1. Before you go to sleep, write down your thoughts. Like a diary, you ask?  Yep, just like that. It can be a problem that is bugging you, or it can be a loved one you miss that has passed away. It can also be how much you want to go on vacation with a visualization of that place, including the smells and scenery description.

2. Get in bed and think some more about what you just wrote.  Think about it until you fall asleep.

3. When you get up, don’t roll out of bed and start your day. Snuggle in, and try to remember what you dreamed about. Whatever comes to mind, no matter how disconnected the thoughts, write them down. If you are consistent with it, you can bet that some of your good stuff will eventually come to the surface, too!

Take Care of YOU!