Updated: Jul 11
Cognitive neuroscientists estimate we are only conscious of about 5% of our brain activity. The rest falls beneath our direct awareness.
How is the subconscious mind formed?
The subconscious mind, formed during your first 7 years of life, lays the framework for your self-perception and influences how you respond to new situations.
The early childhood subconscious is like a blank slate: without pre-existing beliefs, it accepts all new information as true. It has no basis of experience off which to reject contradicting information. This early-life conditioning is strongly shaped by family, friends, peers, culture, and media.
If, for example, as a young child, anyone called you stupid, wrong, selfish, stubborn, annoying, weird, or crazy, or denied your abilities, that could get incorporated into the foundation for your self-worth. Being treated differently based on your appearance, religion, physical abilities, or wealth will also leave an imprint. If you're rejected, you might feel unworthy or unlovable.
We learn how to navigate the world based on people's reactions to our behavior and our associations with these characterizations. As children, we equate "I feel bad" with "I'm bad," internalizing feelings like guilt, sadness, anger, fear, embarrassment, and shame.
We don't even realize this is happening, that other people's ideas and perspectives about us form our identity. Soon, we take on this story, subconsciously repeating it to ourselves, and forget the story didn't originate from us.
According to The Holistic Psychologist, when we're our own harshest critic, we're beating others to judgment—this self-betrayal gives us some semblance of control.
The good news is that subconscious programming is an ongoing process that continues to this day. This means that you can reprogram your mind based on where you focus your energy and what you allow into your field.
7 Ways to Rewire Your Subconscious Mind
It's not as easy as rejecting false notions and self-limiting beliefs—this shift takes commitment and practice. It's important to remind yourself you're not defective, damaged, broken, an impostor, or doomed to fail no matter what you do. Your brain is like a muscle, and the following exercises can help you reprogram your subconscious mind.
1. Curate Your Environment and Your Music
Strictly limit your exposure to toxic news, social media, and negative people. Seek out growth-oriented knowledge, like books and videos, and spend time with high-vibrational, successful people, to uplift and empower you. You may choose to uninstall Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger, Reddit, Pinterest, YouTube, Netflix, and dating apps from your phone and use them exclusively on a laptop.
That includes music. Stop listening to songs that keep you in your old reality. Songs that glorify codependence, addiction, depression, or rage can keep you where you are. Pay attention to the lyrics and whether you feel good as a result of listening to the song. Is the message empowering, or does it lower your energy? What message is the music you listen to trying to send?
2. The Power of Visualization
Close your eyes and tap into the reality you want to create for yourself – fulfilling relationships, passionate work, a beautiful home, and memorable experiences. This helps to overwrite past fears, worries, and doubts. Your body will respond as if you are actually experiencing your desired reality, bringing feelings such as love, joy, peace, gratitude, and even bliss. Our reality ripples out from the present moment.
3. Rewrite Your Story With Affirmations
Affirmations worded positively and in the present tense help you develop an abundance mindset. Write down your old story, the one you keep telling yourself, and next to it write the affirmation you know is the real truth.
Examples of affirmations:
I am safe and supported.
I am worthy of love, health, abundance, and joy.
I am grateful to be alive.
I am free in the present moment.
I am learning and growing every day.
I observe my thoughts without judging myself.
I trust my gut.
I am fully capable of achieving my goals.
I am driven and determined to achieve my mission.
4. Resolve to Chase Your Fire
Everyone has fears and self-doubts – fear of failure, vulnerability, rejection, success, pain, or the unknown. Being consumed by fear inhibits discovery and success.
It all depends on perspective:
Failure drives learning, change, and growth.
Vulnerability requires immense courage.
Rejection guides me where I'm meant to be.
I don't know if I'll be successful if I don't try.
I always have the ability to breathe through pain.
Uncharted territories are exciting.
When you focus on a mission that's larger than you, fear falls away and opportunities start to appear in front of you, including ideas, insights, inspiration, conversations, resources, and people who can help you.
5. Design Daily Rituals
Often, we set goals to stop doing something (e.g. eat less sugar, quit smoking, check phone less). These goals are tough to achieve because the default mind doesn't recognize negatives. Habit replacement is easier than habit restriction.
Rituals are routines we intentionally create to support our mission. It takes an average of 30 days for a ritual to become a habit and around 90 days to become a lifestyle. Optimize your routine, and self-growth will become automatic.
There are all kinds of rituals: morning rituals, evening rituals, self-care rituals, gratitude or savoring rituals, celebration rituals, confidence-boosting rituals, feeding rituals, mating rituals... you get the point.
Spend time every day doing what brings you joy. Meditating, dancing, reading, and writing are powerfully grounding ways to break free of recurring thought patterns, depression, anxiety, and addictions.
6. Refocus the Ego
The ego helps us enforce boundaries and be safe, but it is determined to keep us at our current state in life, which for many, is just survival and getting by. Humility, openness, patience, and surrender are key to growth and learning.
How often do our triggers manifest as confrontational, insecure, avoidant, or passive-aggressive behavior? The temptation is to react and play out that wounded inner child. If we want to do better than our default, we must examine what sets us off and ascertain why we feel that way.
The ego will feel very threatened by this activity, but it will help you understand your communication style and the way you process situations by connecting to past experiences that shaped your present reactions.
7. Journaling Activity: Recall, Reflect, Dissociate, Rewire
Last week, my friend Priyanka led a sacred shakti (strength) healing circle, where she shared powerful resources that inspired this post. She has graciously allowed me to share some of the strategies she's learned, including specific journaling exercises, to help break free of self-limiting beliefs.
Recall statements from childhood, experiences, strong emotional incidents which made you feel unpowerful, less than, or unequal.
Reflect on how these experiences may be currently impacting your life and way of thought. How do you react to stressful situations?
Put it all together: When [describe triggering event or emotion], I [describe reaction]. This stems from [attempt to connect present behavior to past conditioning].
Some examples are given below:
When I feel micromanaged or controlled, I rebel. This stems from childhood loss of control, fear of judgment, criticism, and feeling inadequate.
When I feel disrespected, I play it off, bottle it up, and explode at a seemingly random later time, which is labeled as overreactive. This stems from fear and avoidance.
When I feel rejected, I get quiet, withdrawn, and disconnected; I may seem cold and ignore the person who rejected me. This is a pattern I learned from a past relationship.
When I feel vulnerable, I act tough like I don't care, which can come off as rude. This stems from my fear of being seen as weak.
Dissociate from those past experiences. This way of being was learned; it comes from outside you and isn't really you. You have a choice in this present moment to be and think differently.
Rewire: With your hand on your heart, affirm,
I call back in all power I may have given over time. I am powerful.