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Dream Incubation

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By Dr. Tomi Wahlström |

Imagery is an important skill for athletes to learn. It is beneficial for athletes to be able to imagine and visualize themselves performing. Imagery involves the multi-sensory reproduction of the actual sports experience. When done well, the athlete can duplicate sights, sounds, physical sensations, thoughts and emotions that he or she would experience in an actual competition. That is, imagery involves imagining yourself performing the actual sports act and visualizing the actual environmental situation.

Dream incubation can be a very beneficial extension of daily imagery. It involves focusing your attention a sports performance when you go to sleep. By doing so, you can teach yourself to dream about this performance and learn as you dream. After a lot of training, you can actually have lucid dreams and learn to make decisions and control your dreams. In a lucid dream you can experiment and do things that you could never do in a waking reality. For example, you can fly or do other supernatural acts. You can test tactics and strategies, and solve problems.

Lucid dreaming requires practice. It helps to make your bedroom comfortable, dark, cool, and quiet. We dream during REM sleep stage. So, to enjoy dreams we must have restful sleep and experience as much REM as possible. Keeping a dream journal is very important because it helps us to remember our dreams. It also helps us in recognizing patterns and themes in our dreams. In addition, you should learn how to perform reality checks to train your brain to recognize whether you are dreaming or awake. This can be done by looking at your hands and feet very closely. They tend to be distorted in dreams. You can also look at a clock quickly and then look at it again for a second time. In a dream, the time would likely change. Also, you can use the Mnemonic Induction to Lucid Dreaming (MILD) technique that simply involves repeating phrases like “I will know that I am dreaming” in your mind until you fall asleep. There are many more techniques to keep the dream going when you wake up from the dream or even set your alarm clock to wake you up in the middle of REM sleep and then get back to sleep. Interestingly, video gaming has been shown to improve ability to remember dreams and have lucid dreams.

To incubate your dreams, you should choose the topic or act you want to incubate. Sometimes writing a script and reading it will help. You should include the reason you want to incubate this specific topic or act. Including visually and emotionally evocative elements in your scripts helps to make it easier to visualize and dream about them. Even using visual aids can be useful. For example, you can place your favorite boxing gloves on your night table when incubating a boxing practice dream. However, the most important part is to write down your dreams immediately when you wake up. Include all details such as colors and textures. Be persistent and keep practicing and you will get better at it. Sometimes attending dream groups can help. In these groups, you simply share and discuss your dreams in great detail, analyzing them and learning from them.

Dr. Tomi Wahlström is Vice President of Academic Affairs at the United States Sports Academy.

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