You might not remember them, but every night each of us has three to five dreams. Sometimes our dreams are straightforward — holidays in the sunshine, that longed-for lottery win, a lost loved one returning — but others leave us puzzled. The experts don’t know exactly why we dream but the general consensus is that dreams help our brains process information from day-to-day life and problem-solve things that are bothering us.
“Dreams are a subconscious way of solving problems,” says Gordon Smith, a medium, author, and spiritual teacher. “You might go to bed thinking about something, for example: ‘my day to day life is boring’, and then while you dream your brain is trying to find a solution. These answers will often come as symbols, so you might not understand them immediately.
For example, if you dream that you’re a salmon swimming up a river and your husband is trying to catch you in a net, it could mean that you feel your partner is holding you back in some way, stopping you from fulfilling a dream or getting to the next place in life.
“If you dream regularly, you’re looking for answers. They are there to help you solve your problems,” says Gordon.
If you’re trying to understand your dreams, Gordon recommends writing them down so you can look for symbols. “Look for things such as children, people, animals, and notice the feelings around it,” he says. “Then step back and look at the whole thing, like a jigsaw, and try to see how it relates to your life.”
Having the same dream over and over again can be a sign that you’re in the midst of a troubling time.
“Recurring dreams tend to happen when you are in some kind of behavioral or emotional pattern without being aware of it,” says Anna-Karin Bjorklund, a dream expert and author.
“Your dreams may have tried to tell you before, but you didn’t get the message so it keeps repeating itself until you acknowledge what’s going on. Pay close attention to when the recurring dream comes around — what happened in the days before? Did anything trigger you to feel a certain way?”
The experience of flying could be seen as an expression of joy and ultimate freedom, and these types of dreams often show up when you have mastered a situation or risen above something. As with all dreams, consider how you felt in the dream before exploring it — being fearful about crashing is a very different experience to soaring high in freedom.
Naked dreams are great for analyzing how we really feel about ourselves. A naked dream, where you feel uncomfortable or exposed, could mean you’re suffering from low self-esteem, or you’ve done something you’re ashamed of. A happy nude dream suggests you’re comfortable in your skin and feel confident and healthy.
Chase dreams are common and are often nightmares. Always consider who it may be that is chasing you — could it be an aspect of yourself that you’re uncomfortable with? Chasing dreams often show us we’re living in denial and there’s a fear we haven’t faced.
Dreams of being back in school often come about when we’re not feeling prepared. If, for example, you have a big event coming up, it’s not unusual to dream of taking an exam you haven’t studied for. Ask yourself what you can do to prepare and feel more in charge of the situation.
Water usually represents our emotions or unconscious minds. If the water is clear and calm you’re probably managing your emotions well, but if it’s murky and choppy you could be struggling to deal with something.
A Past Love
The people in your dreams are usually a reflection of the different parts of you. Dreaming of a lover is often a sign that you feel a bit detached from an old part of yourself. So perhaps look into reviving an old hobby or activity you used to love.
Nightmares tend to come around when we have ignored an unhealthy situation in our lives for too long,” says Anna-Karin. “Bad dreams are there to help you process blocked emotions and acknowledge the pain, so look after yourself and try to get to the bottom of what is bothering you.”
Relaxing before bed could help quiet your mind and avoid nightmares. “Many people are nervous about sleep (even if they don’t realize it) because of the lack of control when they give in to their subconscious,” says Gordon. “Learning simple relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, mindfulness, and meditation could help you drift off with a peaceful mind.”
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Yours.