How to Make Your Reality Checks More Effective
Lucid Dreams​
February 6, 2023

How to Make Your Reality Checks More Effective

If you feel like reality checks are not working for you, you may be doing them wrong.

Reality checks are a well-known technique for increasing the chances of having a lucid dream. Many people find them effective, but some people say that no matter how many reality checks they do, they cannot seem to get them to work within the dream.  The more often you form the habit of reality-checking in your daily life, the more likely you will do it in a dream and become lucid when the reality check fails. This article highlights tips for more effective reality checks that will actually work in helping increase the frequency of lucid dreaming.  

A reality check is an exercise that if performed correctly, will lead you to realize you’re dreaming within the dream. The idea is that you will get so used to doing them, that in a dream you will think of trying a reality check. When you perform a reality check in a dream, you will instantly realize that the dream reacts in a crazy or unusual way. When you are awake, it may feel silly to do reality checks because you know you are not dreaming, but in a dream, you are also convinced you are awake until something proves you otherwise. If you do not see results from reality checks carrying over into your dreams, chances are you are not doing it in the most effective way, and are possibly over-focusing on quantity instead of the quality of reality checks. 

What are examples of reality checks?

A reality check can be literally anything you can think of. You can pinch yourself, flip a light switch, count your fingers, try to breathe with your nose shut, stretch your fingers, check the time, or do anything that may act differently in a dream. For example, when I pull my fingers, in a dream they will stretch like rubber, which immediately tells me I am dreaming. Those are physical reality checks, such as touching things or trying to manipulate them.

There are also mental reality checks, which involve mentally testing your surroundings. This can be done by trying to retrace the narrative of your day. Ask yourself what you were doing before this? How did you get here? You may find that in a dream, there is no logical narrative and you realize that it is a dream. Another mental reality check is trying to move something with your mind, or mindfully observing things around you. The key with any reality check is to make them mindful and put your full attention to observing what may happen.    

Tips for reality checks:

Have a backup

Always pick 2 reality checks every time you do it. This allows for a backup in case one of them does not work. For instance, you may look at your hands, and realize you have 18 fingers, but for some reason, you think that's normal, and continue the dream without becoming lucid. If you have the habit of doing two, the backup reality check will usually make up for this error. 

Use dream signs

Use your common dream symbols to remind you to perform reality checks, instead of relying on a reminder alarm. Using dream signs to naturally trigger you to do reality checks is the most effective way to remember to do them. You're more likely to see your dream signs in a dream than you are to get a phone reminder while dreaming. For example, if you see cats in your dream often, perform a reality check every time you see a cat walk by. If you dream of driving often, perform a reality check (or two) every time you get in the car.

Using your dream symbols to trigger reality checks is most effective because it will cause you to do a reality check while dreaming, resulting in a lucid dream. You can do this with environments too. If you commonly dream of bathrooms, put sticky notes over your bathroom mirror to remind you every time you enter the room. You can also do reality checks every time you see something strange or dreamlike. 

Prospective memory

Set targets in the morning for when you will do reality checks each day. Setting targets is a great way to train your mind to get in the habit of questioning your surroundings. In the morning, write down on a piece of paper 4 times when you will remember to do a reality check. Ideally, pick moments that may be related to dream signs or environments. However, you can pick any random target, such as when you sit down for lunch, get home from work, or see a yellow school bus.

Deciding on targets beforehand makes you more likely to remember to do them at that moment, and plants the seed in your head to become lucidly aware later in the day. When you reach those target moments, do your reality checks. If you miss one, do not worry, just go for the next one!   

Quality over quantity

Make your reality checks mindful. Try not to get in the habit of mindlessly and quickly doing reality checks for the sake of doing them, instead of truly taking time to test if you are in a dream. Sometimes people get lazy and just quickly pinch themselves and then forget about it without thinking deeper about it. Throughout the day, find ways to truly test your environment to see if it is a dream or reality. You can pinch yourself, count your fingers, try to breathe with your nose shut, really anything that may act differently in a dream.

The more often you form the habit of reality-checking, the more likely you will do it in a dream and realize something is not right. Use all your senses to observe your environment and take it in as if it was a beautiful dream. 

Amina Mara
Amina is a lucid dreaming expert and the host of The Dream World Podcast.

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