Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success how to start over How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide) Do You Know Your Motivation Style?

Trending in Brain

1 How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly 2 11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind 3 4 Ways to Develop a Flexible Mindset 4 How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential 5 Are You Right-Brain Dominant? (7 Right Brain Characteristics)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on November 23, 2020

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

Advertising

After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

What can we learn from this historical lesson?

1. Focus on the Consequences

Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

So was Moscow not an important target after all?

Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

  • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
  • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
  • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

Advertising

Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

  • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
  • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
  • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
  • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

3. Ask for Advice

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

Advertising

Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

4. Beware of Biased Advice

Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

  • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
  • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
  • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
  • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
  • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

However, most purchases are unnecessary.

Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

After all,

  • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
  • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
  • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

Advertising

Bottom Line

It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

More Tips on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
[2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
[3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
[4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

Read Next