We’ve all had crazy dreams of flying or being late for an important event. Some dreams have elements of our lives and memory in them, and some of them are just plain random.
In most studies of dreams and sleep, the focus is on something that is wrong with the person. They have depression or anxiety, and bad dreams or wakefulness disrupt their sleep. There’s been almost no research on good dreams and patients who report feeling well. If those with depression or anxiety have unpleasant dreams, do happy people only have pleasant dreams?
Pilleriin Sikka is a Doctoral Candidate in Psychology at the University of Turku and Lecturer in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Skövde. She explained, "We wanted to address these important gaps in both dream and well-being research and to study how dream emotions are related to not only different aspects of waking ill-being but also to different aspects of waking well-being, including peace of mind. In fact, this is the first study to look at how peace of mind relates to dream content. Peace of mind is a state of inner peace and harmony, a more complex and durable state of well-being traditionally associated with happiness in the Eastern cultures."
In the research, participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire each day upon waking. They were to report how they felt regarding positive or negative emotions, peace of mind and well-being. After a few weeks of that, the volunteers were asked to keep a dream diary. Every morning, or if they awoke at night, they would write down exactly what they had been dreaming about, and whether it was peaceful or upsetting. They were instructed to be very detailed on emotions they felt in the events of their dream, and how they felt upon waking and remembering the dream. When the data was analyzed, it showed that individuals who reported greater feelings of peace of mind and well-being had more positive dream states. Participants who were anxious or depressed tended to have more dreams that were upsetting or negative.
The study authors say that their work shows that a big part of dream content research has left out the concept of well-being. While the general take away of the study is that happier people have more positive dream content, the piece of the puzzle that should be looked at closer is peace of mind. It’s the flip side of anxiety, but it’s not entirely the same as what is measured as well-being. Well-being is largely external. Being in control of your environment, experiencing personal growth, with autonomy over your life and self-acceptance. Peace of mind is internal, and this is where dreams could be related to your state of mind. Check out the video to learn more about what your dreams could mean and what’s happening in the brain when you dream.