Unlocking The power of the unconscious
Our brain is primarily a filtration device. The amount of stimuli presented in a single moment is overwhelming and our brain has evolved to help us sort through the stimuli in a manageable way. It’s not necessary to see every tree or leaf, to know they’re there. We see cars without noting each individual make and model. But the information is presented, catalogued, and most often discarded when we sleep.
But there’s another part to our unconscious brain that functions on automatic processes, making our lives easier. For example, we don’t consciously think about the individual steps involved in brushing our teeth or driving to work. Once these activities are learned, they form habit loops, and our brain is only aware of the initial step, shifting into a default mode for the rest.
Because the processing of our unconscious brain supports our conscious behavior, we can learn to tap into our awareness to retrain our brain to stop filtering some things or to start filtering others. By learning to recognize thoughts and patterns, both productive or not so productive, we can shape where our focus and attention goes. This will harness our behavior in direct ways, helping us reach our goals faster and smarter.
Be open to the possibility of change
Being open to change is a process. It isn’t something we can simply turn on or turn off because change requires being aware of our habit loops and actively working against them. To begin, we should focus on specific things we want to change. If we want to become more active, perhaps our goal is to walk five minutes every day. We can write down all the times of day when we might accomplish this. For example, parking at the end of the parking lot, or always using the stairs. Once we’re able to reach our five minutes, we can expand the goal to longer times. Another way to help tap into our unconscious brain is following social media pages with a focus on active lifestyles or join local forums. We can ask our friends and family to invite us more or prompt us when we fall back into our old habits. When we open ourselves up to the idea of change we can train our brain to see all the ways change is possible.
Actively use positive reinforcement and affirmations
Affirmations and being surrounded by positivity activates the reward center in our brain. This is how habit loops are created and why they’re vital to retraining our brain. While posting generic positive feedback will release the feel-good hormones in our brain, we want to attach that response with a specific behavior. If we take the goal of being more active, we should repeat a phrase and mantra at the beginning of a workout and one at the end. We can ask people around us to help reinforce when we’re being more active as well. The more we hear from ourselves and others these positive messages, the more we believe them, leading to higher levels of motivation.
One of the most powerful tools we have to retrain our brain is the power of visualization. When we engage in visualization exercises, our brain actually changes how our brain is organized and creates new connections. Visualization is so powerful, it’s used in rehabilitation exercises helping individuals recover from traumatic physical injuries. If we spend five minutes visualizing our success, what being more active looks like, feels like, including any sensory stimuli and detail we can think of, it helps tune our brain into the fact that being active is important. It will begin to reorganize itself to find opportunities for activity. We may even find ourselves craving going for a walk and seeking out ways to fulfill that physical demand.
When we understand that our unconscious brain is working to help us focus on the things we find important, we can begin to harness that power towards specific goals. Once we’ve redirected that energy and focus, we begin reinforcing our behavior and retraining our brain to develop new habits. We can direct our unconscious mind to allow our brain to work smarter, not harder, unlocking our limitless potential.