When I begin to lucid dream, I'm abundantly aware that I am dreaming. I don't generally ever question it.
One tool that really helped me to achieve this state of awareness was just assuming that I was dreaming whenever I questioned it. I mean, when you're awake, you generally don't ask yourself if you're dreaming. So when I DO ask myself, I just assume that I AM dreaming. Because waking life is never a question. For those that need further tests to confirm if it is indeed a dream, here's some "reality" tests:
THE COMMON SENSE TEST:
This is the first and most obvious check. Examine your surroundings for anything that logically should not be there. Ask if this could happen in your normal life. Look for inconsistencies. Are you somewhere you have never been before? Are you with people who live on the other side of the country? Is there an elephant in your kitchen? These are the kinds of questions that can spark your lucidity.
THE READING CHECK:
This is one of the most effective checks. Simply look around and find something to read. After reading it, look away and then look back again to reread it. Do this several times. If you are dreaming, the text or numbers will usually change after several glances. It may become garbled or may have changed completely or it will not remain stable while you are reading it. Anything containing words or numbers will work: a book, a street sign, an address. Many people use the dial on their dream watch.
THE FLYING OR LEVITATION CHECK:
This is another very effective check. See if you are able to fly. If you are not able to fly, try to levitate or hover slightly above the ground. As you become more skilled at lucid dreaming, this may become your favorite check as it is mine. The only down side is that at times you may try this and be unable to fly or levitate, yet you still may be dreaming. Always remember to use this in combination with other checks unless of course it works, which in most cases it will.
THE LIGHT SWITCH CHECK:
This is usually a quite reliable check. Find a light switch and turn it on and off. If it malfunctions then the odds are you are dreaming. Try it several times and pay close attention to when it should be on and when it should be off. It usually will not take long before it malfunctions or operates correctly while in the wrong position.
THE MEMORY CHECK:
This is a very effective but largely unknown method. Simply backtrack in your mind where you have just come from and what you have been doing. Keep thinking back as far as you can and eventually you may find that there are inconsistencies in your memory. By backtracking your dream memory, you may also become aware of something illogical that has happened which you overlooked at the time. You also may find that you have an amnesia-like block that prevents you from remembering accurately. In all of these cases, you can safely assume that you are dreaming.
THE MIRROR CHECK:
This is not only an extremely effective method but as an added bonus, it usually results in quite remarkable experience. Find a mirror and while gazing at yourself, ask if you are dreaming. You may become startled by your reflection. You may be younger or older or have different hairstyle and hair color or you may even be someone different entirely.
THE SELF-OBSERVATION TEST::
This is also a very useful check. Just take a look at yourself. Examine your hands, arms, legs, and clothing. Usually you will immediately be tipped off that are dreaming because you will be wearing clothes that you do not own. Other times, simply looking at your dream body will spark your lucidity.
THE PENETRATION OF MATTER CHECK:
This is not the most reliable method but it has helped me on many occasions. Simply try to push your finger through something solid like a wall or a door or a glass. At first, it may not work but if you believe that you can do it, you eventually will be able to pass your finger right through any solid. As an added bonus on this check, you are also developing your ability to allow your beliefs to directly influence your experience.
THE GRAVITY CHECK:
This is a somewhat reliable check. Find something that you can throw into the air and catch safely. Start tossing it up and down and you may just find that it isn't obeying the laws of gravity as it should if you were in "reality". To maximize the success of this check, while tossing it into the air try to effect the object's rise and fall with your mind.
THE QUESTIONING OF DREAM CHARACTERS CHECK:
This may not be the best thing to try while awake but sometimes it can be effective if in fact you are dreaming. In "reality" if you asked people if we were in a dream, their response would be to accuse you of being insane, yet in the dream realm, it is sometimes a different matter. Usually the dream characters will deny that it is a dream, but they deny it with an air of denial. They usually never question your sanity, and in some cases, they don't even understand what you are saying and disregard you entirely. Also, on rare occasions, someone in your dream will admit that it is in fact a dream. As mentioned earlier, these reality checks should be practiced regularly throughout the day. The more they become embedded into your daily routine, the sooner they will appear in your dreams. If there were one word that sums up what you need to develop in order to speed up the lucid dreaming process, it would be awareness, awareness, awareness. Working on your awareness will have direct carryover effects into your dreams, and once you become more skilled at lucid dreaming you will realize that your awareness combined with your intent is your passport into the dream realm.
NOTE: These reality checks were borrowed from Bird's Lucid Dreaming website at: http://www.consciousdreaming.com/lucid-dreaming/how-to-lucid-dream.htm
1. Have the intention to lucid dream. And incubate that intention before you go to sleep.
2. Keep a dream journal and write down your dreams every night, even if they are just snippets of dreams.
3. Listen to binaural beats or hemisync music to help entrain your brain.
4. Imagine and expect yourself to have a lucid dream. The more you expect, as well as visualize yourself having them, the more likely you will.
5. Meditate often and regularly. This is a HUGE help!
6. Pay attention to and memorize your regular "dream signs" that can trigger your lucidity.
7. Spend time in the hypnagogic period before sleep, paying attention to the visual and auditory images/sounds.
8. Experiment with the wake-back-to-bed method (WBTB).
9. Practice reality tests upon rising in the morning, so as to test for false-awakenings.
10. Practice lucidity throughout your day. Becoming the observer of your waking life, makes it easier to be the observer for your dream life.
11. Make sure to get enough restorative sleep, so that you can dream more easily.
12. Read lots of lucid dreaming books and immerse yourself in the subject. Find out what's possible!
13. Go to bed thirsty, with a glass of water across the room. Imagine yourself going to go get a sip, while falling asleep.
14. Let go of your fear of lucid dreaming.