Physical And Mental Reality Checks For Lucid Dreaming


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As you probably know, a reality check is a small habit whereby you test your reality and this allows you to become lucid (self aware and in control) during your dreams. You can do MENTAL reality checks too. Let me explain!

As most articles sort of gloss over the fact there are two very different ways to reality check, we thought we’d clear a few things up. There are two different ways you can test your reality in a dream. These are:

  • Physical reality checks
  • Mental reality checks

It’s important to know the difference, and to know which type of reality check you should be using. If you don’t know how a reality check works, it’s essentially where you test your reality and use your mind or your body to work out whether you’re dreaming or not. There are more details to how this process works and we’ve covered the science of how it works, but that’s all you need to know for now.

It’s easy to group ‘reality checks’ as the same thing, but there are two very distinct different ways of doing it.

Physical reality checks

A physical reality check is of course where you test your reality in the dream (and waking life) by doing something physically to yourself or the world and observing the results. You’re doing something like for example trying to push your finger through your palm. In a dream this would give a different result than in real life.

mild reality check,lucid dreaming reality check,pushing finger through palm,

Another physical reality check would be to try and fly while walking down the street. This would of course be more difficult to do when in waking life and around other people, and we’ll be looking at reality checks that are easier to do in public in a while, but first it’s important to know exactly what a physical reality check is.

A physical reality check is different to a mental reality check in the sense that you’ll have a definite and clear result from it. Now let’s look at..

Mental reality checks

A mental reality check involves either asking yourself a series of questions, or looking around you and ‘working out’ whether you’re dreaming.

An example of a mental reality check would be something like asking yourself what you were doing ten minutes ago, as this will force you to remember your past and therefore the realization that your dreaming. Here are some examples of mental reality checks:

  • Asking yourself ‘What was I doing ten minutes ago’
  • Looking around and thinking about whether you know the people, and if so, where from
  • Looking at specific objects and thinking about what connection you have to them. For example look at the bottle of coke on the table, think where you’ve drank coke and when the last time you drank it was
  • Ask yourself who you are, where you’re going in life and why you are where you are

Hopefully you get the idea.

A mental reality check involves really being detailed and thinking hard about the reality check. We know what some of you will be thinking and therefore there is a small colored section here to clear something up. If this doesn’t interest you, just skip the blue writing.

You may or may not be thinking at this point that we’ve just told you to try and mentally check your reality even though when you’re dreaming the logical part of your brain is shut off. You may be aware that when dreaming this logical part of your brain doesn’t work therefore you consider things that are normally absurd or impossible to be normal and rational.

We know this, however it’s important to remember that there are different layers of lucidity and therefore different levels of ‘awareness’ your brain can be on. Mentally reality checking may not work sometimes, and at these times it’s good to do a physical reality check. We are aware of this, so don’t worry. Return your breathing to a normal rate, get back to sitting comfortably and continue reading this cute little post.

Why you should combine both

It’s important to combine both mental AND physical reality checks in order to be completely sure you’re dreaming and therefore be completely Lucid. Your brain can very easily be distracted and led down a path of chaos and non-lucidity if you’re not careful.

It is therefore, essential to combine these two types of reality check. Start by doing a physical reality check, as these are the easiest to do at the start of your dream.

(This is because as mentioned before, your brain goes through different levels of awareness. At the start of your dream, your mind is still in ‘non-logic’ mode therefore mental reality checks will just not work.. It would go something like this; ‘Where was I 10 minutes ago?’.. ‘Well, I was over there flying across that mountain being chased by that giant flying hippo, of course’)

By combining different types of reality checks you increase your clarity and improve your chances of staying lucid for longer. There’s no exact number or schedule here, but try and do a reality check BEFORE you start to drift into a normal dream again. Every so often just ‘top up’ your lucidity level.

Mental reality checks are better for when in public

Now that we’ve cleared up the difference between reality checks (mental and physical) let’s discuss why you would want to do a mental reality check.

‘If they only work when you’re practically lucid already, why should I do them?’ I hear you scream at your screen, red with anger.

It’s okay. We understand this concern, but there is a place for these mental reality checks. There are lots of times when you may find it difficult to do a physical reality check. Even though looking at your hands or pinching your nose is easy and not TOTALLY insane to do in public, there are times when it’s tricky.

If you’re working in a customer service job for example, or a place where customers are watching you constantly, it might not be so easy, specially if you work with food. ‘AHH NO! THAT WAITER IS PINCHING HIS NOSE! MY FOOD WILL BE RUINED!’ Bad times.

By the way, although it can be hard to do a physical reality check in the day, there are actually some optimum times to do them and knowing these can help you to be less awkward when doing them. Check it out. (Our article about the best times to do them).

Therefore, in these situations, you can mentally test your reality!

Reality check tips