top of page

Dream Signs & Reality Checks—A Lucid Dreamer's "Handy" Guide

By forum guest author: RTW

Staring at your hands—Ring any bells?

Are you in the right condition to lucid dream? Well, you could take that either of two ways—you might not be all wrapped up in bed ready for the night, but you may have the right mindset to make lucidity that bit easier to obtain.

Conditioning is a concept derived from behavioral psychology and is most famously known to make dogs slobber. Classical conditioning became a well-establish phenomenon due to the work of Ivan Pavlov. His experiments involved feeding dogs at the same time as ringing a bell—before finding that the dogs were still drooling over the need for lunch when the bell was being rung just by itself. Pavlov ‘conditioned’ the dogs to react to the ringing of the bell in the same way as a tasty bowl of their favorite food. He could get them to slobber at command.

But how does this relate to lucid dreaming?

Well the dogs learnt to associate the ringing of a bell with food—even if the two are completely unrelated. It’s this straightforward concept that can bridge the gap between waking and sleeping for dreamers—but without the drooling.

Lucid dreaming is simply the awareness that you are dreaming when your dreaming—but achieving this understanding in the dream state is notoriously difficult! How can you suddenly become aware of the fact your dreaming without anything to trigger you? Each night you get so caught up in your own fantasies and fictions that it seems impossible to point out the obvious—you never truly realize that the elephant in the room wasn’t really sharing your dorm room until you wake up.

So how’s about a lucid trigger? Something that will pop up now in the dream as an obvious marker shouting ‘this is a dream you fool! Of course horses don’t ride bikes!’ and instantly turn a dream into a lucid dream. Well, it might not be quite that easy but it gets close.

Just like drooling dogs, we can train ourselves to react to stimuli in unusual ways!The most popular (and the first method I learnt for lucid dreaming induction!) goes by many names—but ‘Finding you Hands’ seems the most popular. This is exercise that you practice each night before going to bed with the aim to condition yourself into becoming lucid in the dream state—triggering the notorious Dream Induced Lucid Dream or ‘DILD’ for short.The practice to initiate lucid dreams goes as follows:




  1. Sit in bed and calm yourself. Turn your phone onto silent and pause any music playing. Chillout and relax.

  2. Place your hands in front of you, palms up, in a position that is comfortable. Tell yourself calmly but somewhat sternly ‘When I am dreaming, I will see my hands and realizing I am dreaming’ or something similar.

  3. Continue staring at your hands and affirming the concept above. Don’t let it become a mindless drone, stay focused on your hands and be present in the moment. Study the palms of your hands whilst reminding yourself that when you see your hands—you will realize you are dreaming.

  4. After five to ten minutes slowly end the session and settle directly to sleep. No checking facebook one last time!

  5. At some point in a dream you will suddenly see your hands (or maybe suddenly become aware of your hands) and realize you are dreaming. This may happen on the first night you try if you’re lucky, or after a few attempts over successive nights – don’t give up!


Whereas for the dogs, the bell was the stimulus and ‘FOOD!’ was the response, here seeing your hands is the stimulus and ‘I’M DREAMING!’ is the response. You’ve trained yourself to pair something that appears in dreams all the time to becoming aware of the fact you’re dreaming. Your hands become to a trigger for lucidity. See, science can be like magic!

But wait? Just how often do your sweaty palms appear in your dreams?

Just staring at your hands is a good starting point—but we can personalize this method and tailor fit it just for you! If you’ve been keeping a dream journal for the last year or just the last week, this is the time to use it!

First, set aside some time with a pen and scrap of lined paper. Now carefully read through your recorded dreams (preferably from newest to oldest). At first this might seem like a waste of time as you struggle to read your lazy handwriting from six in the morning—until you notice things start to repeat! After going over a few tens of dreams you might start to recognize common things you see in your sleep. These are you new found, aptly named Dream Signs!

Dream signs are common themes/places/people/things that crop up in your dreams (e.g. a close friend, catching the train, flipping pancakes, or Toto’s Africa—whatever). Now instead of relying on seeing your hands, you can start to link lucid awareness to things you commonly dream about most days of the week.

Write out your list of dream signs and remember them! Then be prepared to complete a reality check any (and every) time you spot one of your dreams signs. It won’t be long until you’re both dreaming of said dream sign and becoming lucid from it. And the more you practice the better you’ll become as you condition yourself to become aware of your conscious state each time you see a toaster—or whatever it is you dream of.


This article started life in our forum where the most talented and thoughtful posts stand a chance of being upgraded to an official article.

If you're a budding lucid dream writer, artist, musician, teacher, reviewer, or more, share your work in the forum and you may see your work here!


bottom of page