You’re not the only one having insane quara-dreams
The lack of stimulation does weird things to our brains. Here’s how you can use it to improve your recall.
A horse, Serena Williams, and your high school english teacher walk into a bar…
This isn’t a joke setup — it’s a quarantine dream. Science has long-posited that our emotional state during the day impacts the nature of our dreams, but National Geographic writes that, according to an ongoing study of 600 subjects, a new phenomenon has emerged: “pandemic dreams.”
Not only are people having more vivid dreams but, according to a study from the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, the pandemic has caused a 35% increase in dream recall among participants. So, why are we all trippin’ lately?
It could be stress, and it could be… sheer boredom.
On a ‘bed’ trip
Some dream experts believe when removed from our usual environments and stimuli, we have less of “inspiration” to pull from in our dreams, forcing our subconscious minds to “draw more heavily on themes from our past.”
The neurobiological signals and reactions that produce dreams are similar to those triggered by psychedelic drugs, which activate nerve receptors called serotonin 5-HT2A causing, “emotional disinhibition,” a state in which emotions flood the consciousness.
Though these processes happen nightly, most people don’t typically remember their dreams. But, when we’re stressed, this effect can be amplified. This uptick in recall may also be due to reduced or restricted sources of everyday memories (AKA, being stuck in our houses all day). This can limit the content of dreams, causing the subconscious to reach for deeper memories. You may even experience increased recall during day via feelings of “deja vu” or daydreams about childhood experiences.
So, how do we harness this new brain space?
We lean into the void.
How to use quarantine to access lost memories
Try an exercise called “I remember” popularized by “New York School” poet Joe Brainard. Published in 1975, Brainard’s memoir-style book, I Remember, featured a stream of one-to-two sentence memories that flow effortlessly from early childhood friends to high-school fads to dating as a gay man in the 60s.
Nowadays, teachers use the “I remember” format to teach children how to write poetry — and, it can be an excellent tool to conjure up more vivid memories from past experiences, and to journal without self-judgment.
What you need:
-A non-cellular timer
1. Drop the phone. Set aside 30min of no-phone time to minimize external stimulus.
2. Set a timer so you don’t have to worry about how much time has passed.
3. Start with the phrase “I remember…” and finish the sentence! Whatever comes to mind, no matter how trivial or important is great. What other memories does that memory bring up? See how many memories you can log, each starting with the words “I remember.” Let yourself be surprised and delighted by what you find — you might be surprised where your brain takes you!
Ex. I remember in second grade, pretending to know how to yo-yo, when really I was just yanking it around on the string… :/
*Bonus* Invite a friend or partner! This is an awesome activity to do aloud with another person, too. One person shares a memory, and the next person shares a related memory of their own.
The Point: Feeling bored? Lean in. We can use this forced slow-down as an opportunity to be more curious, not just about the world around us, but about ourselves.