Nov. 2. 2019
Brain Health
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder and CEO

Your subconscious mind is a powerful piece of who you are. As such, it impacts your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and tendencies. Understanding the subconscious mind allows you to use it to your advantage and guide you towards accomplishing your goals.

What Is Your Subconscious?

Have you ever wondered how you’re able to remember so many things without consciously thinking about them?

Well, think about how little you knew when you were born. At the bare minimum, you were taught how to walk, eat and talk at a very young age. Chances are at this point you don’t think very much about walking, talking or eating. You just do these things.

Since learning said skills, how many more skills have you learned? How much more knowledge have you gained? And what about your emotional experiences, how many of those have you had?

Your subconscious is responsible for holding, organizing and shuffling through all of this information on a daily basis.

The Conscious, Subconscious and Unconscious Mind

So where did the idea of the subconscious mind come from?

While I can’t say with certainty that Freud was the first person to develop the idea, he was certainly one of the first people to make it well known.

Sigmund Freud was a neurologist who is now known for his various theories and techniques within the realm of psychoanalysis. One of his theories involved a topographical model of the mind in the form of an iceberg. The model includes the conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind (1).

The Conscious Mind

At the tip of the iceberg lies the conscious mind. This part of the mind has the ability to direct our focus and also imagine things that are not actually real. Think of this as the director of your mind, the part of your mind calling the shots. Better yet, that constant dialogue taking place in your mind right now (2).

The Subconscious Mind

The subconscious mind comes next. This is where your memories are stored for quick recall – what your cell phone number is or the name of that new restaurant you liked. It’s also where more complex information is stored, such as your behavior patterns, feelings, and your recent recurring thoughts. Then we have the implicit knowledge, the skills and habits we’ve developed so well that we perform them without even having to think about them (3).

The Unconscious Mind

Lastly, we have the unconscious mind, where everything else is held. Memories that no longer have importance to us or memories that have been repressed due to trauma. Think of this as a library of information in the deepest part of your mind (4).

The Influence of Your Subconscious Mind

For our purposes, I want you to think of your subconscious mind as your lens of perception.

This is where all of your past experiences are held and therefore referred to as you experience new things. Because of this, your past can quite heavily influence your present. Let me explain.

Say you’re a painter and have been previously told over and over again that you’re terrible, have no skills and shouldn’t be a painter. Then one day someone tells you that you are an excellent painter.

Do you think you would be quick to accept the compliment and believe them? Possibly. But you may also be very likely to come up with an excuse for the compliment. Such as, “they’re only complimenting me to be nice, they don’t really mean it” or, “they only think I’m a good painter because they don’t know enough about painting”.

Does this sound familiar?

Our subconscious creates a lens of perception that we view reality through. That lens can be positive, negative or neutral, and it may vary depending upon the particular experiences you have had throughout your life.

If we manipulate that lens to reflect positive messages that reflect our goals and interests, our subconscious mind can help us rather than hinder us as we work to reach our goals.

Become Subconsciously Aware

Our subconscious has the power to either work with us or against us. From our daily conversations to specific goals we’re trying to achieve, our subconscious has a hand in it all.

While this lens is created by our past experiences, we have the power to influence and adjust that lens to our advantage through daily actions.

Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations are having a moment right now, and it’s safe to say we’re here for it!

Not only have they been proven to aid those battling depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, but they also have the ability to help mold our subconscious mind to help us reach our goals. Research has shown that the use of positive affirmations can be particularly successful in the context of implementing health-related behavior change (5). Your conscious state is essentially telling your subconscious what to remember, how to shape your lens.

Create affirmations that reflect your goals, ambitions, wants or needs. Keep your affirmations in the present tense. For example, you could say, “I am strong” or “I am successful” rather than “I will be strong” or “I will be successful”. Recite your affirmations in your head, out loud or write them down in a journal.

As you begin to practice positive affirmations you may feel silly, it can sometimes even feel trivial. But as time goes on, your confidence will build and you’ll start to reap the benefits of the affirmations. Stick with it and remember the goal you are working towards!

Visualization

Think back to recent memory, what is it you picture first? I’m willing to bet an image of some sort is popping into your mind as we speak. Additionally, chances are you’re not only visually picturing the memory in your mind, but you’re also remembering how you felt and maybe even what you were thinking.

Visualization is almost like taking positive affirmations a step further. It gives your subconscious some context. Visualization or mental imagery is a proven method for instilling health behavior change (6).

When using visualization, the key is to paint your subconscious a concrete picture; what does it look like, how do you feel, what emotions do you have. The more detail the better! You are picturing yourself in a particular situation you are working towards achieving.

Positive Surroundings

How many times have you heard the phrase, “you are the company you keep”?

We’re heavily influenced by our surroundings. Not only are we influenced by the people around us, but also the information we’re exposed to. Think about it, if you’re constantly hearing the same thing over and over again (whether it’s true or not), don’t you think your subconscious will eventually start to assume the same in one way or another?

Our subconscious is constantly absorbing information from our surroundings, whether intentionally or unintentionally (7). If the information we’re absorbing is positive and uplifting, our subconscious will start to reflect that. Surround yourself with people, places, resources and sources of information that positively reflect your goals and ambitions!

Meditation

From guided meditation to mindful meditation and transcendental meditation, they all allow you to take a step back, be in the now and succumb to relaxation.

Meditation has been heavily researched and subsequently proven successful in reducing stress, anxiety, high blood pressure and even insomnia (8).

In addition to these benefits, there are many people out there who believe we’re closest to acknowledging our subconscious when we’re in a state of meditation. Research has gone on to prove this theory as well, where meditators were more aware of their subconscious cues than those who did not practice meditation (9).

Try adding a form of meditation into your routine to help build your awareness of your subconscious mind!

Bottom Line

Take a minute to think inward; what are your greatest hopes, desires, goals, and ambitions? Do you find that you get in your own way when trying to achieve these aspirations? Do you sabotage your own success? If you do, you certainly aren’t alone.

Our subconscious is influenced by so much that is outside of our control. My hope is that you use this information to take back control, put your subconscious to work and get after those goals!

“Think you can, or think you can’t; either way you’ll be right.” – Henry Ford

Connect With Us

What did you think of the subconscious mind before reading this article? What’s one takeaway you may try and implement into your life? We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject! I’m sure someone else reading the article would as well. As always, you can connect with us outside of the website on Instagram via @nutritionstripped @nutritionstrippederica and #nutritionstripped #nswellnesscoaching.