How to Control Your Dreams (For Real!)

Learn to make your dream life even cooler and freer than your waking life.

| November 30th, 2011
How to Control Your Dreams (For Real!)

Ever wanted to spend a romantic evening with George Clooney or headline at Madison Square Garden? Ever wished you could fly at will or speed through the desert in a sports car with the wind whipping your hair?

What if I told you, you can?  

Before you give up on your wildest fantasies, try this technique: lucid dreaming.

Never heard of it? Most haven’t. Lucid dreaming is the ability to influence your dream self’s actions and choices—a freedom you gain when you train yourself to notice that you're dreaming. Essentially, it means you assume control in the dream world. (Think: The 2010 hit movie, “Inception.”)

Sure, it sounds a little sci-fi, but lucid dreaming is real and it’s possible for anyone to master. (See our tips and tricks at the end for help getting started.)

Beyond giving you and the sexiest man alive a little "alone" time, lucid dreaming can help you build confidence, face your demons and more.

Here are four ways that taking control of your dreams will make your life better (and boost your inner beauty, to boot):

Bend the rules. The best thing about lucid dreaming is this: There are no rules. Oh, you’re sick of gravity? Totally fine—gone. You want a mansion to appear out of nowhere? All yours. Lucid dreams are the perfect opportunity for a little fantasy action.

“Do things you can’t do in waking life,” says Joy Fatooh, an artist and wildlife biologist with a knack for lucid dreaming. “It’s very freeing and uplifting to the spirit.”

MORE: Eat for Better Sleep

In fact, Fatooh loves to experiment with bending the rules in her dream worlds. “One night, I walked into a room and thought, ‘I would love to play the piano.’ I don’t play in waking life, but I always thought it would be fun. I walked to where I thought a piano should be and sat down confidently as if there were a piano. As I started to play, a piano materialized and I played the most beautiful music. The more I played, the more solid and real it became.” While she still can’t play the piano when she’s awake, the memory remains. “The beauty of that music has always stayed with me.”

Research supports that dreams are an outlet for fantasies that are out of reach in real life. One study found that paraplegics often walk in their dreams—even if they were born with the condition. Another study looked at a group of monks who had taken a vow of silence and found that all of them had conversations in their dreams, half of them frequently.

So next time someone shoots a sarcastic “in your dreams” your way, you can just smile and say, “I will do that in my dreams. And it will be awesome.”

QUIZ: Are You Getting Your Beauty Sleep?

Conquer nightmares. If recurring nightmares haunt you whenever you close your eyes, lucid dreams are the perfect opportunity to fend off the boogieman for good. By facing the fear head on, you’ll turn a shadowy, roaring terror into a Pixar-friendly fuzzy blue monster.

The trick is simple: Do something unexpected.

“Anything creative or courageous that the dreamer does to change the way she responds to the dream will affect the dream’s outcome,” says Scott Sparrow, Ph.D., assistant professor of counseling psychology at University of Texas-Pan American. “I have seen many people completely overcome a recurrent nightmare through a single lucid dream.”

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