opening the doors of perception

Metaphorically speaking, the mind is often depicted in images as an iceberg. Our everyday conscious thoughts might represent 5% of the iceberg above the water – responsible for our logic, reasoning and creativity. The remaining 95%, submerged and hidden below the surface, represents our subconscious mind controlling our habits, skills, emotions, behaviours, attitudes, beliefs and perceptions.

The imaginary line between our conscious and subconscious mind, for all intents and purposes, could be described as our analytical mind. The perceived thickness of the analytical mind tends to determine how suggestible and receptive we are to new information. The greater the thickness the more likely we are to analyse, rationalise, determine and reflect upon this information before making a decision. On the other hand, those with a thinner line tend to be more open to the emotion and sensitivity of new outcomes and possibilities.

As part of a more relaxed reasoning process, once we are aware of what we do and understand why we are doing it, realising the benefits is easier to achieve because it becomes rational by the very nature of our thinking. If we don’t necessarily know why we are doing something we are less likely to buy into the outcomes. This was demonstrated in the 2007 Harvard study by A. J. Crum and E. J. Langer (1) involving 84 female hotel room attendants. When questioned on their exercise habits 67% of the attendants said they did not exercise regularly and 37% said they did not exercise at all. On being divided into two groups, one group was informed that the cleaning work they did counted as exercise and surpassed the Surgeon General’s recommendation for living a healthy lifestyle. They were subsequently informed how and why this was possible. The control group were told nothing and four weeks later showed no changes in their physiology. On the other hand, the informed group showed a decrease in: weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index despite not changing their daily routines. All that was changed was their perception of the benefits of getting enough exercise.

Earlier in 1993, a study by R. Desharnais et al (2) involved 48 healthy young adults who were all taking part in a ten-week aerobic exercise programme. Half the group were informed that the purpose of the programme was to improve their psychological well-being and self-esteem. The end results showed significant increases in fitness levels of all the participants but only the informed group indicated significant rises in self-esteem.

Both these studies indicate that through thought alone we can change our physiology and psychological well-being. By understanding, acknowledging and having belief in new information we become attuned to its suggestion of realisable expectations and outcomes. The more we know about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it the easier and more effective the how becomes to achieve (3). Opening the doors of our own perception, the conscious and subconscious mind can be connected to work together and allow the body to be conditioned to a new way of thinking.

With advances in mind-body science and health-smart technologies we are now beginning to explore below the surface of the iceberg of human capability wherein the true power of the mind-body connection is animated. These exciting discoveries are evolutionising our approach to health and sports performance where belief is one of the key switches to enhanced capability and success.

(1)  A. J. Crum & E.J. Langer “Mind-Set Matters: Exercise and the Placebo Effect.”

(2)  R. Desharnais, J. Jobin, C. Cote, et al “Aerobic Exercise and the Placebo Effect: A Controlled Study”

(3)  Dr Joe Dispenza ‘You Are the Placebo, Making Your Mind Matter’