Can Lucid Dreaming Help With Your Mental Health?

Lucid dreaming may sound like a far-out science fiction concept, the plot of a psychological thriller, or the side effect of an illegal drug, but the term actually has an almost shockingly simple definition. Any time during sleep that you feel aware of the fact that what you're seeing or hearing is a dream, you are experiencing lucid dreaming. While some people have a natural tendency toward lucid dreaming, there are techniques that can make the experience accessible to nearly everyone.


The question on the minds of researchers and dreamers alike is whether lucid dreaming has the potential to ease mental health disruptions like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), nightmares, depression, and anxiety. A study published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2020 suggests that lucid dreaming therapy may have the potential to reduce depression, anxiety, and nightmare symptoms in those living with PTSD. This begs the question of whether the dreaming technique may have a use for those without PTSD who experience other mental health symptoms or even for those looking for a general mental health boost. Here's everything you need to know about lucid dreaming and how to try it. 

How to start lucid dreaming

There are several methods of inducing lucid dreams but they all share the same goal: training your brain to become aware of its own level of consciousness. Start by mentally reviewing a recent dream you've had as you're about to fall asleep. As you recall what it felt like to be in that dream state, try to remember a sign within the dream that could have confirmed to you that it was a dream. This might be as obvious as the fact that you were walking through walls or as subtle as the absence of your reflection in a mirror. Tell yourself that the next time you dream, you want to check for signs that will let you know that you're dreaming.


Every time you wake up from a dream, repeat this mental process. To enhance your awareness further, write down every dream you experience in a journal. Include any signs that were used or could have been used to confirm that you were in a dream. Review this journal often to keep the dream world at the forefront of your mind and soon, you'll be able to induce a state of lucid dreaming whenever you so choose. 

Memory processing

Can you imagine getting to relive the last time you saw a loved one who has since passed away or getting another chance to deliver that perfect comeback, which came to you an hour after an argument had already ended? Lucid dreaming can provide you with these opportunities, even if they only take place inside your mind. Once you're reentered the moment you'd like to revisit in your dream, you can choose whether to make changes or to relive it as it happened.


After you focus on your recent dreams and your intention to search for signs that you're dreaming when you enter sleep, spend some time recalling the memory you wish to revisit. As you drift off to sleep, imagine any changes you'd like to make to the memory. With practice, you'll be able to direct your dreams to these memories of past experiences and fondly revisit them or make therapeutic changes such as confronting an adversary you were too afraid to speak up to in the past. 

Confronting fears

Lucid dreaming can provide the perfect safe space for confronting fears and phobias you aren't quite ready to face in the waking world. There is no limit to the scenarios your brain can create in a dream state, so you can literally take on anything. Once you've had some success with lucid dreaming in general and feel like you have control over the experience, consider using the technique to tackle any lingering fears you may be getting stuck on in the waking world.


Consider starting with a small fear such as an intense discomfort around spiders. As you go through the motions of your process to induce a lucid dream, start to imagine yourself holding or sitting next to the cutest, least threatening spider you can possibly imagine. Maybe it's a wide-eyed, brightly colored peacock spider, a pink Chilean rose-haired tarantula, or a completely fictionalized version of the arachnid. Focus on feeling calm and safe inside your body as you share a space with the spider and on your intention to stay in control of your consciousness as you fall asleep and slip into a lucid dream. 

Emotional healing

Once you've explored lucid dreaming to the point where you've managed to revisit memories or explore your fears in a safe setting, it's easy to imagine the potential it has for emotional healing. Imagine being able to travel back in time and speak directly to your childhood self, connecting with your inner child, forgiving a former version of yourself, or getting the chance to give that apology you never got the opportunity to speak aloud — yes, lucid dreaming can help with shadow work.


Before you decide to explore old wounds or revisit past traumas using lucid dreaming, take some time to honestly assess whether or not you're emotionally prepared to do so. Finding yourself back in a scenario that was painful, even in a lucid dream, can bring old traumas back to the surface when you awaken. If you feel like you can handle this possibility, proceed with luring yourself back into those memories as you perform your sleep time rituals to induce a lucid dream. 

Wish fulfilment

There is a lighter, more playful side of lucid dreaming that may still have the potential to boost your overall mood. Have you ever wished you could fly, win the lottery, or climb a mountain? Do you tend toward the spicier side of life when it comes to fantasy? Mastering lucid dreaming can allow you to experience these wishes and curiosities even if you aren't able or don't wish to pursue them in your actual life.


Simply incorporate the envisioning of any adventure you'd like to experience into your mental preparation for lucid dreaming before you fall asleep. Always spend time focusing on the intention that you will be fully safe inside the dream and that you can awaken whenever you wish to by simply calling out to yourself. There is no limit to where you can take yourself and what you can experience once you are in the driver's seat of your subconscious mind.