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Published on March 20, 2020

Conscious Mind vs Subconscious Mind: How to Improve Them?

Conscious Mind vs Subconscious Mind: How to Improve Them?

The mind is one of the most fascinating and powerful aspects of ourselves. It is stronger than any supercomputer that we have ever created and can store practically an infinite amount of information.

How we get access to all of that information stems from the levels of the mind. There are three in total, but here the focus will be on the relationship between our conscious mind vs subconscious mind. By uncovering what is going on in our heads, we can best achieve our goals by tapping into the various minds.

Conscious Mind vs Subconscious Mind

To best uncover the differences, it first helps to understand the various levels of the mind. For that, we’ll be turning to Sigmund Freud, the man who founded the concept.

In his theory, he used the analogy of the iceberg and that the idea that the mind could form three parts of this iceberg.

The conscious mind is the ice above the water. This forms only a small part of the iceberg as most of the ice is underwater.

Everything underwater is broken into two more parts. The preconscious is anything below the waterline while the subconscious is far below.

This analogy may not make a lot of sense on the surface, but when you look at Freud’s deductions of what each mind does, some truth can be found.

  • The conscious mind is where all of our thoughts, feelings, hopes and memories are stored. This is the part we use to think and talk. Going back to the iceberg analogy, you can say that these are all of the things that require little effort to see.
  • The preconscious mind is anything that isn’t in the forefront of our minds but that we can bring it to the surface with a little effort.
  • Last is the subconscious mind, which stores feelings, urges, and memories that are beyond our conscious mind. These are usually things we suppress like pain, anxieties, or conflicts. These events are what steer our overall behaviour, motives, and decisions.

Differences in Opinion

As you can tell, the conscious mind and subconscious mind are on different levels and store different pieces of information. However, there are other differences. The biggest one is the differences in opinions.

This refers to the fact that both the conscious mind and subconscious mind have different beliefs.[1]

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As with animals, many of our decision-making drivers are below the surface. An animal doesn’t “decide” to fly or hunt or sleep or fight in the way that we go about making many of our own choices of what to do — it simply follows the instructions that come from the subconscious parts of its brain.

These same sorts of instructions come to us from the same parts of our brains, sometimes for good evolutionary reasons and sometimes to our detriment. Our subconscious fears and desires drive our motivations and actions through emotions such as love, fear, and inspiration. It’s physiological. Love, for example, is a cocktail of chemicals (such as oxytocin) secreted by the pituitary gland.

While some subconscious parts of our brains are dangerously animalistic, others are smarter and quicker than our conscious minds. Our greatest moments of inspiration often “pop” up from our subconscious. We experience these creative breakthroughs when we are relaxed and not trying to access the part of the brain in which they reside, which is generally the neocortex. When you say, “I just thought of something,” you noticed your subconscious mind telling your conscious mind something. With training, it’s possible to open this stream of communication.

So while our minds have different perspectives, there is potential for them to work together.

This is along the same lines as procrastinating on a task only for you to get a “lightbulb” idea. That idea didn’t come from anywhere specific, but rather from your subconscious mind.

Another example to consider is scenarios where events conflict with established beliefs.

For example, say you have a belief that you can’t make genuine, long-lasting relationships with other people. Any event that could suggest otherwise will more or less send your mind into a spiral.

Imagine attending a meet-and-greet for work. People with that belief would purposely avoid talking to people, or they’ll keep it to small talk, not really looking to bond with people.

This behavior is warranted because, in their head, they will do anything to discourage themselves or to sabotage themselves from making a friend.

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This all happens because they had bad experiences or thoughts that link to their social skills.

Active vs Passive

The last difference is how involved each part of our mind is, and the best way to explain it is through an example we can all relate to.

Do you sometimes feel you can’t fall asleep because your mind is wandering?

Part of the reason for this is due to the subconscious mind. When you’re falling asleep, your conscious mind is resting; however, your subconscious isn’t.

In fact, your subconscious mind never falls asleep. It works all day, every day controlling your body, breathing, and maintaining organ function and cell growth.

Our subconscious mind is the reason why we dream and why we can only remember vivid details of said dream.

In this way, the subconscious is passive. It continues to work, but often without us knowing. However, we can, of course, deepen that connection.

How to Improve the Conscious and Subconscious Mind

Now that you have a better grasp on what each mind does, the next step is for us to improve the connection between our minds. There are a number of ways for you to improve this connection, and most of them stem from habits your conscious mind can create to strengthen your subconscious over time.

1. Consider the Environment

While we should be looking after our own global environment, our internal environment is important as well. Chances are most people haven’t considered the environment of their subconscious mind.

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This is important because, again, our subconscious mind is always active and absorbing everything

Beliefs don’t come out of nowhere. Our beliefs are grown based on the information we see, the conclusions we draw, and the way we compare it to the rest of our reality. We do this constantly.

The catch to this is that our daily environment has a flurry of emotions. The most prominent is negativity and strife.

It’s depressing when we consume it, but it impacts our behavior over time. For this reason, it is important to be mindful of what it is you are consuming information-wise.

Avoid listening to the news unless you need to. Don’t spend time with those who drag you down or are toxic. Focus more on positive information through various mediums.

2. Visualize More

Remember that our subconscious mind is the mind behind us dreaming. If it can do that, then it makes sense that the subconscious mind loves pictures.

The best way to send pictures from our conscious to the subconscious mind is through visualization.

The idea is to spend a small amount of time — about 15 minutes a day — picturing positive scenes of you and your life experiences.

You can visualize anything you like, such as vacations, fulfilling relationships, working out, and more.

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The idea is to do these consistently, and over time, these images will begin to replace any negative thoughts you have about those aspects. Any fears, doubts, or worries will slowly wash away.

For greater effect, also visualize strong positive emotions. For example, if you’re worried about working out at a gym, visualize your exercising. Visualize how you’ll feel by the end of it or how you’ll feel when you hit your health goal.

3. Affirmations

The last method I want to talk about is affirmations. This technique is similar to visualization, but here you’re focusing on words and thoughts. As I mentioned above, all information and thoughts get absorbed into our subconscious mind.

If we instill positive words on a regular basis, our tune will change over time.

With affirmations, there are some rules to go over for these to work effectively:

Use the Present Tense

Looking to be more confident? Tell yourself, “I am confident.” Even if you are not confident, you can trick your subconscious mind because it can’t predict the future. It only knows this very moment. Also, stick to positive statements only.

Associate Your Words With Feelings

Even though the statement made may be false right now, one big motivator is reminding ourselves how we’ll feel with this new reality. If you want better health, start to bring in emotions that make you feel healthy.

Repeat the Process

Not only should you be doing this daily, but it also helps to repeat them over the course of the day.

Final Thoughts

The connection between the two minds is powerful, and making small lifestyle changes can impact your attitude and life over time. That much is clear when you look at how our conscious mind vs subconscious mind function.

Remember that our conscious mind is the active one and will get things done. It is our front-line. All the while, our subconscious is constantly looking around, absorbing everything it can, and formulating our reality. Nurture these two well, and you can change your life.

More Tips on the Levels of Mind

Featured photo credit: Laurenz Kleinheider via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on July 7, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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