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Published on March 20, 2020

What Are The Levels Of The Mind And How To Improve Them

What Are The Levels Of The Mind And How To Improve Them

It was in ancient Greece when the connection between our mind and body was first considered. That information would take a long time to read the Western world, but once it did, we started to understand things at a deeper level.

Out of all of the information, one of the prominent aspects were the levels of the mind. It was an aspect that grew off of the Greek philosophy that our mind and body are connected, and it was these levels that would unlock more of our potential.

However, like most things in life, it takes time and understanding to unlock these levels of the mind. Too help with that, let me explain what these are and what you can do to tap into them.

What Are the Levels of the Mind?

One of the prominent researchers on the mind is Sigmund Freud. He was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who came up with all kinds of theories, one of those being the levels of the mind.

He referred to them as the three levels of awareness.

According to Freud, our mind operates across these three levels of the mind. He calls these the conscious, unconscious, and preconscious mind.

Conscious Mind

The conscious mind has everything that we are aware of at a given point in time. These are thoughts and feelings we are aware of from reading information or hearing someone talk to us. They can occur at the front or back of our mind.

The key with the conscious mind is that no matter where the thoughts or emotions are occurring, you are fully aware of them.

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Preconscious Mind

The second level is the preconscious mind. This contains any information regarding what’s below our initial awareness. This is the information that requires us a brief moment to retrieve.

A good example of this is any memories you can recall or any information you retain after studying for a test.

Unconscious Mind

The final level is the unconscious mind. This is where there is a lot of potential and growth. The tricky part to all of this, though, is that this is information buried deep down.

While it’s difficult to see how the unconscious mind may be important, these are things that impact our behavior without us realizing it. Your preference for certain foods can stem from past events and experiences. Also, who you are likely to vote for in elections will also be impacted by experiences and views. These are only a couple of the ways the unconscious influences us.

How to Boost the Levels of the Mind

Now that you understand the levels of the mind, what are some ways to improve them?

Before getting into the ways to boost these, we must first understand why we should bother doing so.

As the Greeks noted eons ago, our mind and body are connected. Take care of the mind, and the body will follow as well. Not only that, but as we grow older, our mental functions begin to change, and they begin to decline if we don’t bother training our minds.

There are many ways to boost the levels of the mind, as you will see below.

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1. Seek out Mental Stimulation

Any kind of brain activity is going to be good for us. What constitutes as brain activity is forming new neural pathways and stimulating these connections.

So how do you do this? Well, it comes down to building new habits or reinforcing them. A good example is mental exercises. As an exercise, try to lift your big toe while keeping all of the other toes and your heel planted on the ground. If you can do that, try raising all of the other toes while keeping your heel and big toe on the ground.

For most people, they will lift all of their toes, and when actually trying to lift all of the toes on purpose, it’ll be tough to do. That’s because most people have never given their brain that specific of a command.

Some other examples of mental stimulation include drawing, writing, and painting.

2. Work Out

On the note of exercising, it’s also a great source of mental stimulation. As long as you are using your muscles in some fashion, this will provide mental stimulation.

You also want to be exercising as exercising is known to improve cholesterol levels, balance blood sugars, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress.

3. Eat Better

Nutrition is also key and can impact our mood. Don’t believe me? Note how you feel after eating a well cooked meal at home versus eating at a fast food place.

In most occasions, you’ll feel bad or terrible after eating fast food. You’ll definitely feel that if you’re used to eating healthy food on the regular.

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The point is that the food you are eating will impact how your brain functions overall.

If you are looking to change your diet, one suggestion is the Mediterranean diet.[1]

4. Avoid Tobacco and Alcohol

Smoking tobacco or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol are both ways to damage your brain and reduce your ability to access the various levels of the mind. A glass or two of wine per day is okay, but cut yourself off after that.

5. Show Care for Your Emotions

Your emotions are at the forefront of your mind, and one way you can exercise your conscious mind is to be more aware of how you are feeling. Also, pay attention to how your emotions are shifting.

This also goes for the things that severely affect our minds. Anxiety, depression, sleep-deprivation, or intense exhaustion are things that will impair our cognitive functions.

Be sure to take necessary measures when and if those occur. Generally speaking, as long as you’re getting good sleep and are staying in good mental health, you should be setting yourself up well.

6. Avoid Head Injuries

Moderate to severe head injuries is an obvious blockade when it comes to the levels of the mind, but it’s worth noting. Do your best to avoid injuries as even without being diagnosed with a concussion, these injuries can impact our cognition.

7. Increase Your Social Networks

As we get older, our circle of friends becomes smaller and smaller. In those moments, it’s important that we stay connected to our community. These will lower risks of dementia, decrease blood pressure, and boost our longevity.

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8. Try Other Mental Exercises

Also called “innercises,” these are exercises that stretch only the mental aspect of our brains. Keep in mind that these activities focus on outward factors, and not everyone can do them, but everyone can certainly try.

You can do these activities at any time, and they will provide many benefits the more you practice them. Some examples of exercises like these are:

Doing Mental Math

Most people are quick to whip out their phone’s calculator app and do the math the easy way. Train yourself to do it in your head, but keep it reasonable.

Listing One Noun for Each Letter of the Alphabet

For example, A is for apple, B is for bison, C is for carrot. You can challenge yourself by doing this in reverse or telling yourself you can’t use the same word for a whole week for this exercise.

Counting Large Numbers Backwards

You can add a layer of challenge to this by seeing how fast you can count backwards.

9. Smile More

The last mental activity that I will suggest to boost the levels of the mind is to smile more often. Of course, you want to have a reason to smile, but there is a lot of weight behind a smile. A smile pushes our brain to release certain chemicals that make us feel happier and want to smile more. This helps significantly when we are experiencing some kind of pain.

All of this is a call back to the old saying of “grin and bear it.” This is particular important because it influences our physical state.[2]

Final Thoughts

Understanding the levels of the mind is simple in concept, but each level adds layers of challenge. We have a (more or less) complete understanding of our conscious mind and can, in turn, alter it at will. However, our preconscious and subconscious mind need more work.

With the help of these activities, you can boost your understanding of these levels and improve your life.

More Tips on Developing the Mind

Featured photo credit: Rebe Pascual via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

Memory plays an integral role in our lives, both in the short and long term. If you’re wondering how to improve memory, I’m here to tell you that there are natural and effective ways to do so.

Despite what you might think, improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it.

Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve memory efficiently and reduce the risk of memory loss.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts, and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder, then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. Research suggests that the more information and distractions you receive, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory[1].

Fortunately, meditation can help.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which, in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

While any amount of meditation will do something to help your memory, one study pointed out that “8 but not 4 weeks of brief, daily meditation decreased negative mood state and enhanced attention, working memory, and recognition memory as well as decreased state anxiety scores”[2].

Therefore, if you’re looking for the most benefits, try sticking with a meditation practice for at least 8 weeks.

However, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get Plenty of Sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then it’s likely that you’re not able to remember well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities, including your memory.

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If you want to learn how to improve memory, how much sleep should you be getting?

Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation[3], you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things[4].

If you want to improve memory, get plenty of sleep.

    Maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!), but if you care about improving your long and short term memory, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

    Try these three things to naturally improve your sleep cycle:

    • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
    • Don’t eat too late
    • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

    Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

    However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory.

    3. Challenge Your Brain

    When was the last time you challenged your brain?

    I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or under-sleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and memory games.

    To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

    Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-solving ability, and memory.

    There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

    • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

    If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

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    Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it; try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

    4. Take More Breaks

    When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctly remember working all the hours under the sun—and many under the moon, too!

    At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat, and tears.

    However, if you want to know how to improve memory, taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative, and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

    Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

    One 2011 study from the University of Illinois concluded that “the brain is built to detect and respond to change…and prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance”[5].

    This is based on something called the “vigilance decrement.” This can be applied to many things. For example, we often don’t notice the feeling of clothing touch our bodies because our brain becomes accustomed to the sensation. However, if you change clothes, you’ll likely notice the difference in texture and temperature for a few minutes.

    When you take a break from memorizing information, it refocuses your attention and energy, leading to increased focus overall.

    It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart, and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

    Basically, make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

    5. Learn a New Skill

    I love this quote, as it’s 100% true but frequently overlooked:

    “Learning never exhausts the mind.” -Leonardo da Vinci

    From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

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    Let me give you an example of this:

    Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day, many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

    Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

    The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you rather than letting you work in your own way.

    Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction into learning a new skill (computer coding).

    It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career, and the ongoing learning made the call center job much more bearable.

    Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus, and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking out new information. When learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly becomes a habit, too.

    If you want to know how to learn something new every day, check out this article.

    6. Start Working out

    If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

    Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory[6].

    Regular physical activities increase blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. A well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

    Even if you don’t have much time, research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines[7].

    Interested in getting started?

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    Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

    • Join a gym
    • Join a sports team
    • Buy a bike
    • Take up hiking
    • Dance to your favorite music

    7. Eat Healthier Foods

    I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

    This applies to your brain, too.

    The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health, as well.

    Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery, and dark chocolate. But any fruits, vegetables, or foods high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory. Here’re some ideas: 15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

    Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain, leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

    If you want to improve your mental health, eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

    • Turmeric – Helps new brain cells grown
    • Broccoli – Protects the brain against damage
    • Nuts – Improves memory
    • Green tea – Enhances brain performance, memory and focus[8]
    • Fish oilFish oil supplements can increase your brain power

    Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

    Also, remember that your brain is about 75% water, so dehydration can have a huge effect on the way your brain functions. Stay hydrated if you really want to improve memory!

    Final Thoughts

    I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be helpful for you.

    You don’t need to implement them all, but you can try out the ones that appeal to you.

    But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory and avoiding cognitive decline, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested.

    More on How to Improve Memory

    Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

    Reference

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