There are literally thousands of books and websites out there with information on how to get lucid dreams. On this site, I’ve recommended exploiting your REM cycle by waking up at different times, letting yourself wake up naturally, and improving your recall as ways to get lucid dreams. All of these methods encourage you to become familiar with your dream state of mind, preserving it as long as possible once awake, and making dreams a priority in your life. That is, all of these methods rely on increasing awareness of dreams and your belief in their importance.
Believing that you can dream lucidly is probably the most important first step to having a lucid dream. Many people don’t put much stock in their dreams, and as a result they usually don’t remember them very well, and may not be aware that lucid dreaming is a possibility. To have lucid dreams, you must believe that lucid dreaming is a natural ability that you can develop; everything else flows from this belief and confidence in your ability. Ask yourself why you want to have lucid dreams.
Examining your motivations for trying to have lucid dreams will help you identify any ambivalence you might have about either your ability to lucid dream, or what you will do once you achieve a lucid dream. Plan out what you will do once you enter a lucid dream: having a clear goal in mind also helps to bolster your confidence and motivation, and will make it easier to direct your lucid dream. It’s easier to start out with modest goals in mind, like interacting with objects and trying to change small things like the gravity and colors in your dream. As you become a more confident lucid dreamer, you’ll be able to plan out bigger dream scenarios, and the excitement of planning them will keep you focused and motivated to lucid dream more often.
Cultivating a greater self-awareness and mindfulness during your waking hours is a very useful strategy for having lucid dreams more frequently. This is because increasing your level of conscious awareness while awake will have a carry-over effect in dreams. Have you ever had a day where you couldn’t remember what you did? Meditating even for 15 minutes a day can help you break through a habitual lack of mindfulness which can have you going through your daily routines on autopilot. It can also help you quiet the inner commentary that many of us have running through our heads. Often we aren’t aware of our inner voices until meditation lets us focus within. Quieting your inner voices at night will help you fall asleep much faster, and if you can maintain your relaxed focus as you fall asleep you may even transition directly into a lucid dream!
The steps above are what I call lucid dream preparation; part of changing your mindset to make mindfulness and conscious dreaming a strong aspect of your everyday life. By taking these steps, you’re paving the way to greater familiarity with your own mind, which ties directly into recognizing when you are dreaming. It also helps you remember your dreams.
Remembering and recording your dreams is a form of mental organization – the other big pillar of achieving lucid dreaming outside of mental focus. There’s no shortcut to achieving the kind of recall and familiarity with your dream signs that keeping a journal will give you. Dream signs are people, objects, settings, scenarios, or almost anything else that you encounter frequently in your dreams. Noting dream signs in your journal will lodge them into your subconscious, and eventually you will encounter one of them in a future dream and think to do a reality check, which can propel you into lucidity. Even after you begin to have lucid dreams regularly, a dream journal will help you to keep your dreams fresh in your mind and track new dream signs, since dream signs can change over time.
Mental focus and organization come together in helping us to remember our dreams upon waking. When you first wake, try to do so motionlessly; without opening your eyes or letting your thoughts drift, begin the process of recalling your dream. Regular meditation can help you keep your mind on this task without being distracted by the day ahead. With normal dreams, you’ll probably have to do some digging to remember what they were about – if you remember only a fragment, it was probably the last dream scenario you had before waking, and often you can remember more of the dream by working backward from this fragment. Ask yourself how you got to that space in the dream, or where a certain object in your dream came from, and you’re likely to remember more. Cycling through various sleeping positions can help too: you’re more likely to remember parts of your dream if you’re lying in the same position as when you experienced them.
Don’t be discouraged if you remember very little of your dream, even after meditating on it. I’ve sometimes woken up remembering one or two scenes of a dream, but found that the very act of writing it down led me to remember a lot more. You can also make a “dream checklist” of all the people, places, etc. that you might have dreamed about. Being aware of your dream signs can help whittle this list down somewhat. You can also write on the right hand page (if you’re keeping a written journal) and leave the left hand blank for details you might remember later, as well as sketches, and diagrams. The more ordered your dream journal is, the more organized your memories of your dream will be. The carry-over effect ensures that mental training we perform while awake will affect us in our dreams, so the more organized and focused your mind is when you’re awake, the more self-aware you will be in your dreams. This self-awareness is the most important aspect of how to get lucid dreams.