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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

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on November 2, 2020

How to Use Your Unconscious Mind to Get What You Want

How to Use Your Unconscious Mind to Get What You Want

I get my best ideas when I’m not trying—when I’m zoning out in the shower or taking my dog for a walk. Suddenly, something I’ve been racking my brain to figure out seems to just come to me. It may seem like magic, but it’s actually just my unconscious mind coming through for the win.

What Is Conscious Thought?

Let’s start by explaining what the unconscious mind is not. I want you to think about what your dream house would look like if money were no object. Then, think about where you were the first time you can remember feeling joy.

That voice in your head that was talking you through those two tasks is your conscious mind. Simply put, any thought process that you are aware of (conscious of) is part of your conscious mind. I’m using my conscious mind as I sit here and write this article.

One of the major brain centers for conscious thought is in your prefrontal cortex. This is on the outside of your brain behind your forehead. Some of the downsides of conscious thought are that it’s energetically taxing and finite. What I mean is, your conscious mind can only think one thing at a time, and it burns through a lot of glucose to do so.

Try to figure out the square root of 2400 while creating a grocery list. You can skip back and forth between those two tasks, but your conscious mind can’t wrestle with both simultaneously.

Also, think of a time when you were utilizing your conscious mind for an extended period. Maybe you were in classes all day or busy with a tough work task late into the night. You were probably exhausted after such intensive and extended conscious thought.

What Is the Unconscious Mind?

That’s why the unconscious mind is such a valuable resource. It isn’t energy taxing, and it is virtually limitless. Your unconscious mind could be trying to figure out thousands of problems right now.

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The downside is that you aren’t conscious of any of it until you are—until your unconscious thoughts make it into your consciousness.

That’s why it behooves us to figure out how to create the right environment for our unconscious minds to flourish.

System 1 and System 2 Thinking

Daniel Kahneman’s seminal book Thinking, Fast and Slow gives us another way to think about the difference between the unconscious and conscious minds. Kahneman describes two different modes of thought called System 1 and System 2.

System 1 is quick, emotional, and intuitive, while System 2 is slow, methodical, and logical. System 1 works in tandem with System 2.

For example, if you see someone looking at you, your System 1 might assume they are upset with you. Then, your System 2 takes over to process information and discern what might actually be going on at that moment.

Kahneman warns us that System 1 and System 2 are metaphors for how the mind works.[1] It would be an oversimplification to try to explain specific regions where System 1 and System 2 thinking takes place. However, System 1 and 2 is a powerful way of thinking about different modes of thinking. Kahneman calls System 1 automatic thinking and System 2 effortful.

The idea of focus is key here. In a famous experiment, participants were told to watch a video and count how many times people in the video passed a ball to each other. This required their System 2 thinking. However, the intense focus required for this experiment caused most people to miss the fact that while the people in the video were passing the ball, a person in a gorilla suit slowly made his way through the shot.

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How to Make Your Unconscious Mind Work For You

Focusing too intensely can cause us to miss details and solutions better suited to our unconscious mind. That’s why we sometimes have to stop and chill out, instead of forcing solutions.

Here are five ways to make your unconscious mind work for you.

1. Manage Stress

Your unconscious mind is not a big fan of you being stressed out, overworked, or overwhelmed. Managing stress is important if you want to be able to come up with those effortless “aha!” ideas.

Imagine that you’re under a strict work deadline. Your anxiety is compounded by the fact that you’re worried about losing your job and that your entire family relies on your income. This is an incredible amount of pressure that makes it tough for your unconscious mind to break through with that effortless creativity.

Think back to the video where the person in the gorilla suit sneaks through all the people passing the ball around. Most people are so focused on the task at hand that they don’t see the most interesting part of the video. Stress and pressure can lead to a kind of tunnel vision that works the same way. Our attention becomes so narrowly focused that we aren’t able to zoom out and connect the dots between broader patterns and ideas.

That’s why it’s crucial to find ways to manage stress. I recently spoke with humor engineer Drew Tarvin who explained the 4 R’s of managing stress.[2]

First, try to reduce stress by eliminating stressors from your life. This might mean finding a less stressful job or leaving earlier for work.

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Next, reframe the stresses that you can’t eliminate. Reframing isn’t pretending that your stress doesn’t exist; it’s trying to think differently and change your perspective about stressors that do exist. This might mean looking at the bright side or trying to see the bigger picture. If I don’t want to quit my stressful job, I can try to reframe by thinking more about the money I make or the times I feel fulfilled at work.

The third step is to relieve stress. This means finding ways to relax throughout the day. You might try meditating or watching funny cat videos on YouTube to clear your head and relieve your stress.

Finally, refresh. Find ways to take more extensive breaks where you completely de-stress. Pre-COVID, this might have meant taking a vacation to a beach somewhere. But now, you’ll have to get more creative as you find ways to put your phone down, forget about work, and come back completely refreshed.

2. Take Breaks

Part of stress management is taking breaks. But taking breaks is also an important part of tapping into your unconscious mind.

When I’m trying to figure out how to structure an article or put together ideas for a larger project, I schedule in time to completely put the project down. This allows my unconscious mind the freedom to come up with some truly novel solutions, and unlike conscious thought, it feels effortless.

This is that experience of the light bulb suddenly going on while you’re showering or driving to work. When you aren’t focused on anything in particular, your unconscious mind has the quiet it needs to bubble up to become conscious thought.

So, take breaks. One strategy is what’s called the Pomodoro Technique, which is when you stop to take a five-minute break after every 25 minutes of work. This allows you to recharge. Plus, by systematically easing your intense focus, you are giving your unconscious mind opportunities to come up with some truly novel ideas.

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3. Get Creative

The unconscious mind is great at effortlessly seeing patterns and finding interesting solutions, but for this to happen, it needs some inspiration. That means creating and consuming as much creativity as you can.

Pick up an artistic or creative hobby. Paint, write, build, or dance. It’s also helpful to consume creativity. Go to museums, read poetry, and walk in nature. Taking in creativity with your conscious mind will give your unconscious mind all the inspiration it needs to be able to do its thing.

4. Don’t Force It

The most crucial takeaway about the unconscious mind is that you can’t force it. You can struggle and strain all you want when you’re using your conscious mind, but the unconscious mind can only bubble to the surface when you aren’t trying so hard.

Think back to that phenomenon of having an aha moment while you’re showering or walking your dog. The unconscious mind is better able to break through when you aren’t focused so intensely on whatever it is you’re trying to solve.

So, relax and give yourself some time and space. That’s when your unconscious mind is most likely to breakthrough.

5. Play

Finally, don’t forget about the power of play. Play is inherently fun, and a playful mode of thinking allows your unconscious mind more of a chance to innovate. If you turn your task into a game, you’ll be more relaxed, have more fun, and collaborate better with your colleagues. That means you’ll be more likely to riff and get to a more creative “unconscious mind” solution.

You can also add play throughout your day to tap into this freer, less constrained kind of thinking. Turn your commute into a game, play hide and seek with your children, or join a local bowling league. This will help you get reacquainted with your childlike sense of joy, wonder, and curiosity—all key ingredients to nurturing and fostering your unconscious mind.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with and utilizing your unconscious mind is very different from doing so with your conscious mind. Tapping your unconscious mind is a technique that, when done right, can help you get what you want by untapping your potential.

Featured photo credit: Katerina Jerabkova via unsplash.com

Reference

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