Doctoral candidate Pilleriin Sikka wanted to address gaps in dream and well-being research and to study how dream emotions are related to not only different aspects of waking ill-being, but also to different aspects of waking well-being. The resulting study, published in Scientific Reports, looks at how peace of mind relates to dream content.
“Peace of mind” is a state of inner peace and harmony, a more complex and durable state of well-being traditionally associated with happiness in the Eastern cultures, explains Sikka, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Turku, lecturer in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Skövde, and lead author. co-author Antti Revonsuo, a professor of psychology at the University of Turku and professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Skövde, adds that even though it has rarely been directly measured in studies of well-being, in several philosophical traditions and spiritual approaches, peace of mind has always been regarded as central to human flourishing.
The researchers asked healthy participants to fill in a questionnaire that measured their waking ill-being and well-being. During the following three weeks, participants kept a daily dream diary in which, every morning upon awakening, they reported all their dreams and rated the emotions they experienced in those dreams. Results showed that individuals with higher levels of peace of mind reported more positive dream emotions, whereas those with higher levels of anxiety reported more negative dream emotions.
These findings show that if we want to understand how dream content is related to waking well-being, it is not enough to measure only the symptoms of mental ill-being but we should measure well-being in its own right. Surprisingly, those aspects that are typically considered and measured as “well-being” were not related to dream content. So there seems to be something unique about peace of mind and anxiety, Sikka says.
The researchers propose that individuals with higher levels of peace of mind may be better able to regulate their emotions not only in the waking state but also during dreaming, whereas the opposite may be true for those with higher levels of anxiety.
Future studies should explore whether better emotion regulation capacity, and self-control in general, is indeed something that characterizes people with higher levels of peace of mind, and whether improving such skills can also lead to more peace of mind, Sikka concludes.