Dream diaries help make you more creative, study finds

Need help with that idea? Stumped on how to take your pitch to the next level? Try journaling what you dream every night. A new study in the Journal of Creative Behavior found that enhancing your dream recall could increase your creativity.

In an experimental study, researchers at the Colegiatura Colombiana first attempted to solve the abstract challenge of measuring creativity by having more than 120 undergraduates complete the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, one of the most widely used problem-solving tests used to judge imagination.

Researchers instructed participants to complete abstract drawings that would be judged on their creativity. The participants’ squiggles didn’t need to be on the level of Picasso, but they were rewarded for features like originality, emotional expressiveness, and elaboration. Thus, the participants’ drawings could result in art you would never want framed, but if they showed a volume of ideas and a higher degree of extra details, they would be considered creative.

Remembering your dreams teaches you to think outside the box

After that first creative test, researchers had half of the participants keep a dream log in the mornings over 27 days, while the control group was asked to just report on a vivid event that had happened the day before. Then the researchers repeated the TTCT test to see if forcing participants to recall their dreams had any effect on their creativity.

Both groups scored higher in showing raw creative elements in their later TTCT tests, but only the dream loggers got better at the creative strength section in the test, showing more dreamlike qualities such as “emotional expression, storytelling, movement, unusual visual perspective, humor, richness of imagination, and fantasy.”

Next time you’re in a creative rut

Researchers believe that the dreams gave participants’ a creative boost, because recalling your weird, abstract subconscious helps you expand your definition of what’s possible. Researchers said that dreams had the “effect of ‘loosening’ stereotyped and predictable associative patterns of thinking characteristic of one’s ordinary state of consciousness.”

So next time you’re in a creative rut, you can choose to wallow, or you can dust off your notebook, and try remembering what route your subconscious took last night.