Advertising
Advertising

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.

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.

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

13 Common Life Problems And How To Fix Them How Does Setting Goals Lead to Success? The Lifehack Show: Standing Out in Today’s Job Market with Dr. Julia Ivy Your Night Routine Guide to Sleeping Better & Waking Up Productive 5 Types of Procrastination (And How To Fix Each of Them)

Trending in Brain

1 What Is Unconscious Bias (And How to Reduce It for Good) 2 What is Cognitive Dissonance (And How to Dodge it) 3 How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the Best Brain Supplements) 4 How Not to Let Cognitive Bias Control Us When Dealing with COVID-19 5 7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on June 30, 2020

What Is Unconscious Bias (And How to Reduce It for Good)

What Is Unconscious Bias (And How to Reduce It for Good)

Many conversations are being held nowadays regarding unconscious bias, but what does it really mean and how can it affect your life and the people around you? With many types of biases, it can get quite confusing. In this article, we’ll touch on cognitive bias, and then zero in on unconscious bias. Both types of biases have an immediate impact on your life because they relate to how you and others think about yourself and other people.

If you want to protect your relationships and make good decisions about other people, you need to know what these biases mean[1]. Once we have clarity about that, we can explore in more depth unconscious bias and how to address it[2].

Cognitive Bias

Let’s start with cognitive bias[3], a predictable pattern of mental errors that result in us misperceiving reality and, as a result, deviating away from the most likely way of reaching our goals[4].

These mental blind spots impact all areas of our life, from health to relationships and even shopping, as a study recently revealed[5]. In other words, from the perspective of what is best for us as individuals, falling for a cognitive bias always harms us by lowering our probability of getting what we want.

Cognitive biases have to do with judgment, not mood. Ironically, cognitive biases — such as the optimism bias and overconfidence effect — more often lead to positive moods. Of course, the consequence of falling into cognitive biases, once discovered, usually leaves us in a bad mood due to the disastrous results of these dangerous judgment errors.

Advertising

Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is different from cognitive bias. Also known as implicit bias, it refers to unconscious forms of discrimination and stereotyping based on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, age, and so on[6]. Despite cognitive biases sometimes leading to discriminatory thinking and feeling patterns, these are two separate and distinct concepts.

Cognitive biases are common across humankind and relate to the particular wiring of our brains, while unconscious bias relates to perceptions between different groups and are specific for the society in which we live. For example, I bet you don’t care or even think about whether someone is a noble or a commoner, yet that distinction was fundamentally important a few centuries ago across Europe. To take another example, most people in the US don’t have strong feelings about Sunni vs. Shiite Muslims, yet this distinction is incredibly meaningful in many parts of the world.

Unconscious Bias and Discriminatory Behavior

Organizations often bring me in as a speaker on diversity and inclusion to address potential unconscious discriminatory behavior. When I share in speeches that black Americans suffer from police harassment and violence at a much higher rate than white people, some participants (usually white) occasionally try to defend the police by claiming that black people are more violent and likely to break the law than whites. They thus attribute police harassment to the internal characteristics of black people (implying that it is deserved), and not to the external context of police behavior.

In reality – as I point out in my response to these folks – research shows that black people are harassed and harmed by police at a much higher rate for the same kind of activity. A white person walking by a cop, for example, is statistically much less likely to be stopped and frisked than a black one[7].

At the other end of things, a white person resisting arrest is much less likely to be violently beaten than a black one. In other words, statistics show that the higher rate of harassment and violence against black Americans by police is due to the prejudice of the police officers, at least to a large extent[8].

Advertising

However, I am careful to clarify that this discrimination is not necessarily intentional. Sometimes, it indeed is deliberate, with white police officers consciously believing that black Americans deserve much more scrutiny than whites. At other times, the discriminatory behavior results from unconscious, implicit thought processes that the police officer would not consciously endorse[9].

After becoming aware that unconscious bias does exist, the next step would be learning how to recognize it in order to reduce it. I’ve outlined three crucial points to keep in mind below while further exploring the unconscious prejudice discussed above.

How to Reduce Unconscious Bias

Remember these three important points if you want to work on reducing your unconscious bias.

1. Unconscious Bias is a Systemic Issue

When we understand that unconscious bias is ultimately a systemic issue, we understand that internal cultures need to be checked and addressed first.

Interestingly, research shows that many black police officers have an unconscious prejudice against other black people, perceiving them in a more negative light than white people when evaluating potential suspects. This unconscious bias carried by many — not all — black police officers helps show that such prejudices come – at least to a significant extent – from internal cultures within police departments, rather than pre-existing racist attitudes present before someone joins a police department.

Advertising

Such cultures are perpetuated by internal norms, policies, and training procedures, and any police department wishing to address unconscious bias needs to address internal culture first and foremost, rather than attributing racism to individual officers.

In other words, instead of saying it’s a few bad apples in a barrel of overall good ones, the key is recognizing that unconscious bias is a systemic issue, and the structure and joints of the barrel needs to be fixed[10].

2. There Is No Shame in Unconscious Bias

Another crucial thing that needs to be highlighted is that there is no shame or blame in unconscious bias as it’s not stemming from any fault in the individual. This no-shame approach decreases the fight, freeze, or flight defensive response among reluctant audiences, helping them hear and accept the issue.

Unconscious bias is prevalent and often doesn’t match our conscious values. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs and prejudices stemming from our tendency to categorize people into social groups. This developed naturally as a way for our ancestors to quickly size up a possible threat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate well in modern life.

3. It Takes a Sustained Effort to Prevent and Protect Against Unconscious Bias

After being presented with additional statistics and discussion of unconscious bias, the issue is generally settled. Still, from their subsequent behavior it’s clear that some of these audience members don’t immediately internalize this evidence. It’s much more comforting for their gut reactions to believe that police officers are right and anyone targeted by police deserves it; in turn, they are highly reluctant to accept the need to focus more efforts and energy on protecting black Americans from police violence due to the structural challenges facing these groups.

Advertising

The issue of unconscious bias doesn’t match their intuitions, so they reject this concept, despite extensive and strong evidence for its pervasive role in policing. It takes a series of subsequent follow-up conversations and interventions to move the needle. A single training is almost never sufficient, both in my experience and according to research[11].

Conclusion

The examples and points raised illustrate broader patterns you need to follow to recognize unconscious bias. Only by doing so will you be able to determine if, and what type of, intervention is needed to address it.

Unfortunately, our gut reactions lead us to make poor judgment choices when we simply follow our intuitions. Unconscious biases are systemic and need to be addressed in order to make the best decisions[12].

We need to learn about the kind of problems that result from unconscious bias. Then, you need to develop the right mental habits to help you make the best choices[13]. A one-time training is insufficient for doing so. It takes a long-term commitment and constant discipline and efforts to overcome unconscious bias, so get started now.

More Tips on Overcoming Unconscious Bias

Featured photo credit: M.T ElGassier via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next