A key skill required in the world of lucid dreaming is being able to test whether you’re in a dream or not. While that may sound obvious when it’s plainly stated, it’s often something people don’t realize the importance of early on.
Out in the wild, you’ll find a variety of advice on how to tell if you’re dreaming. However, we have one specific technique that we recommend the most, especially for people who are new or who want something simple. This is The Hands Technique.
In the following, we’ll be breaking down this lucid dreaming test and how it compares to other types of reality checks. If you want to get really good at lucid dreaming in a short period of time, this is a good skill to practice to get there.
The Essential Criteria of Good Lucid Dreaming Reality Checks
Before we get into the lucid dreaming Hands Technique specifically, we want to talk about the topic of the reality check in general. Ideally, these types of lucid dreaming reality checks need to meet a few key criteria.
- These tests have to be something that you can do without needing special equipment or a special setting.
- They need to show you common dream signs that tell you with clarity whether you’re in the dream or not with no room for confusion.
- Ideally, any good lucid dreamer test can’t be something that’s very jolting because it can cause you to wake out of your dream if it is.
Overall, these criteria aren’t really negotiable. They are not “nice to haves.” Instead, they are “must haves.” Otherwise, the entire thing falls apart, and the approach would be useless.
This is why we recommend The Hands Technique so strongly. It meets all three of these criteria with no wiggle room whatsoever.
How Can the Lucid Dreamer Test for Being in a Dream With These Criteria?
The idea is pretty straightforward. You want a test that you can do that meets the above three points but that also shows you simple signs of lucid dreaming. The idea is to get a straightforward “yes or no” answer instead of some shade of gray or a “maybe” answer.
Overall, the best lucid dreaming tests will cause the surroundings to do something that gives away that you’re in a dream state. This usually takes advantage of the fact that your brain is making up the dream as it goes along.
If you want to know how to tell if you’re dreaming, this is always going to be the approach. However, what can vary is how you cause your dream to give itself away while still maintaining the three guideline criteria we noted up above.
That can seem like a tall order because there’s a lot going on. This is why we recommend the lucid dreaming Hands Technique above all else for most people, most of the time.
The Lucid Dreaming Hands Technique Explained
Let’s be clear about something first. This is not a lucid dream induction technique in the strictest sense. Instead of inducing a new dream, you’re testing to see if you’re already in a dream but haven’t realized it. In the process, we can turn normal dreams into lucid dreams instead of trying to create them from scratch.
Here’s how The Hands Technique works:
- You start by looking at some object or text that has a set pattern to it.
- From there, you look down at your hands, open in front of you, palms up, for just a moment. Two or three seconds is plenty for most people.
- Look back at the object or text you were viewing originally. If it changed in the meantime, then you’ve discovered that you’re in a dream.
This is the easiest lucid dreamer test out there because you can do it any time. It’s also something that’s easy to practice while you’re awake to increase the chances that you think of doing it when you’re dreaming. Moreover, it’s discreet, so other people won’t think you’re doing something weird.
The main thing people want to know is why the pattern or text changes in this technique. The reason is that when you’re dreaming reality, your brain basically makes up things as it goes along. It doesn’t remember all that much or try to keep up with every little detail. With The Hands Technique, you’re essentially tricking your brain into giving itself away by changing something that you wouldn’t typically notice in a dream.
Seeing the Signs of Lucid Dreaming When It’s Happening
When you wake up from a dream that you can remember, you often look back and think of things that should have given it away. Perhaps you dreamed of something that wasn’t physically possible, you dreamed of driving an old car you no longer have or something along those lines. Unfortunately, you don’t usually realize something’s off when you’re in the middle of it, and that’s why lucid dreaming reality checks like The Hands Technique can be so important.
However, this gives us a hint of another problem. How do we remember to use The Hands Technique while we’re dreaming?
Like many lucid dreaming techniques, you usually have to pair The Hands Technique up with other components to make the whole thing work as one cohesive unit. In this case, you need a trigger you practice that happens in the dream that makes you remember to check. Essentially, you need to practice looking for signs of lucid dreaming when you’re awake.
Putting It All Together: How to Tell If You’re Dreaming in Practice
Some people like to roll this into their regular mindfulness practices, but we realize that’s not for everyone. Instead, we recommend something straightforward and easily accessible: doorways.
The idea is simple. Every single time you walk through a doorway for a week, apply The Hands Technique to your surroundings. Even if you know you’re awake and have no chance for a lucid dreaming induction to be happening, go ahead and go through the motions.
From there, you’ll start to develop a habit, which will eventually cause you to remember to do it in your dream. If you realize you’re in a dream but suddenly wake up, you’ll need to practice staying in the dream as a separate skill. However, the hard part is remembering to check to see if you’re in a dream in the first place.
Through a combination of the doorway trigger and The Hands Technique, we really believe that most people can get started having lucid dreams within a relatively short period of time. In our coaching work, we’ve seen people start having their first lucid dreams within just a week or two using this approach. Since it’s simple, easy to learn and pretty effective, we recommend it as the best option for people getting started.
Jesse G. is a long-time fan of the esoteric in all of its forms and its effects on performance, happiness and stress in a variety of people. His work centers primarily around allowing people to use a variety of areas to figure out what works best for them as individuals.