Use Your Subconscious to Make Better Decisions

choosing the best planHave you ever struggled when faced with an important decision? Would you like to know how to make better decisions?

Decisions about things like what job to take or which apartment to rent or what school to attend?

A lot of people will try to go about this using the old Ben Franklin technique of writing the pros and cons of each option.

Here’s how Ben described his technique:

“My way is to divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns; writing over the one Pro and over the other Con. Then during three or four days’ consideration, I put down under the different heads short hints of the different motives, that at different time occur to me, for or against the measure. When I have thus got them altogether in one view, I endeavor to estimate their respective weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out. If I judge some two reasons con equal to some three reasons pro, I strike out five; and thus proceeding, I find where the balance lies; and if after a day or two of further consideration, nothing new that is of importance occurs on either side, I come to a determination accordingly.” 

While that can be helpful, I find I often still have difficulties making a decision even after I have compiled an extensive list of pluses and minuses.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes writing things out in a purely objective fashion only seems to muddy the water more.

How do you compare apples and oranges?

Is it more important to have morning light in the kitchen window or to be two blocks closer to the subway station? Is it more important to live in a city with a nicer climate and a job I like or to be closer to my family?

The challenge is that the pro and con method uses only the conscious mind. It’s very poor at harnessing the benefit of subconscious knowing and intuition.

Our subconscious does a tremendous amount of work in the background.

I won’t go into much detail here but part of the reason it needs to is because we are constantly bombarded with much more information than we can handle consciously.

Our solution to this is that the subconscious does a lot of filtering. It only brings something to our attention when it recognizes it as important to us.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this in various ways.

This is why you can be at a party carrying on a conversation and completely unaware of the conversation on the other side of the room until somebody over there mentions your name.

You hadn’t been actively eavesdropping. You weren’t even aware of the other conversation until your subconscious picked up the mention of your name.

Your screening system immediately decided that might be something important to you and relayed the info to your conscious awareness.

front end of red carThis is also the reason why once you buy a certain model car you notice all the similar models on the road. Those cars didn’t suddenly materialize. They were there all along. You just didn’t have any reason to notice them before you had one too.

This is part of the reason why goalsetting can be helpful. When we’ve defined a goal, our subconscious can begin to look for events and opportunities that may help us reach it.

Scientists often describe solutions coming to them not when they were actively working on the problem but while they were distracted or relaxing. Think of Archimedes discovering displacement while taking a bath.

Another example I always remember is the chemist who first described the structure of the benzene ring.

benzene ringHe had been trying to work out how these molecules were constructed for some time without success. Then he had a dream of wriggling snakes and suddenly one of the snakes grabbed its own tail.

The dream gave him the insight that benzene had a ring structure.

That’s all well and good, but do we have to wait for some random dream or flash of inspiration? Is there some way to purposely tap into our subconscious?

In short, can we harness the subconscious to help us make better decisions?

Yes, we can!

Here’s a three step process you can try:

Define the decision you want to make or the problem you’re trying to solve. Write it down.

• Next, distract the conscious mind with some activity that will keep it occupied. In various experiments, researchers used computer-based puzzles. You can do the same thing using a puzzle book such as Sudoku or crossword puzzles or anagrams or find-the-word type puzzles. Anything that will keep your conscious mind focused and occupied. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes.

• Now, without thinking too much about it, write down your decision or a solution to the problem you were working on.

I’ve been surprised at the feeling of clarity I often achieve using this short exercise. Give it a try and see how it works for you.

BTW – This isn’t some technique I just made up.  There’s quite a lot of research into this type of decision making.  If you want to look into the studies, here’s a place to start:

On Making the Right Choice: The Deliberation-Without-Attention Effect
Ap Dijksterhuis, Maarten W. Bos, Loran F. Nordgren, Rick B. van Baaren

Science 17 Feb 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5763, pp. 1005-1007
DOI: 10.1126/science.1121629


Turmeric and Wound Healing

Turmeric root and powderTurmeric is a versatile spice. It’s tasty so it’s not surprising that it figures prominently in many Asian cuisines.

Perhaps as importantly, turmeric has a long history of medicinal usages.
It has great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This makes it very helpful for problems like arthritis.

Cultures that regularly include turmeric in their diet have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

There’s also some suggestion that turmeric reduces the risk of cancer.

With possible benefits like that, I try to add at least a little turmeric to my diet most days.

When I have eggs, which is often, I sprinkle turmeric on them.

I also make a “latte” by blending hot almond milk with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and a bit of coconut oil. Very tasty – I suggest you give it a try.

Feel free to add a little sweetener if you care to.

Beyond that, I enjoy curries. When I make one I’m always sure to add turmeric.

If you don’t want to use turmeric in your cooking, you can take supplements. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric and that’s the supplement that you’ll usually see in the health store.

Still, as always my preference is for whole foods and supplements only as a secondary backup.

You’re probably not too surprised about using as a spice or a supplement. You may be a little less aware of the linkage between turmeric and wound healing.

Turmeric has significant antiseptic effects. Additionally, some studies suggest that it improves collagen formation and wound remodeling – very important aspects of wound healing.

Because of these effects, turmeric is a reasonable natural remedy for minor cuts and scrapes.

Using it for this purpose is pretty straightforward.

Mix turmeric with enough coconut oil to make a paste. If there’s no coconut oil handy you can use water. After cleaning the wound, coat it with this paste, then put a bandage on.

Change this dressing once a day or so.

If you want to know about another natural treatment for minor cuts and scrapes, click on that link.

And here are some references if you’re interested:

Life Sci. 2014 Oct 22;116(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2014.08.016. Epub 2014 Sep 6.
Curcumin as a wound healing agent.
Akbik D1, Ghadiri M1, Chrzanowski W2, Rohanizadeh R3.

Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2016;17(11):1002-7.
Wound Healing Effects of Curcumin: A Short Review.
Tejada S, Manayi A, Daglia M, Nabavi SF, Sureda A, Hajheydari Z, Gortzi O, Pazoki-Toroudi H, Nabavi SM1


Here’s a video I really like.

For one thing, it’s a love story with a happy ending and I’m always a fan of those.

More to the point here, on a website about wellness and vitality, is the message about a positive outlook.

We tend to find what we look for. We also tend to get more of what we focus on.

If we look for reasons to mistrust people or focus on some annoying quirk they have that’s all were likely to see.

Validation shows us what the opposite approach might yield, what it might be like to look for the best in everyone and appreciate then and their good points.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. And I hope you feel validated in your own life.

Natural Remedy for Cuts and Scrapes

band aidsI grew up as one of five boys. As you might imagine, there was a fair amount of rough-and-tumble in our household. Cuts and scrapes were pretty common.

Our mom used to clean the cuts, put on some Mercurochrome, apply a Band-Aid and send us on our way.

Of course this was always accompanied by a hug and a kiss.

I’m now certain that mom’s love and attention had much more to do with the healing than the Mercurochrome. Alas, Mercurochrome is pretty worthless as an antiseptic. The only thing I can say in its favor is that it has a pretty color and it doesn’t sting.

However, a lot of things people put on wounds are even worse. Not only are they ineffective, they can actually be harmful.

Back in the 50s, the other common antiseptic for cuts and scrapes was iodine. Iodine is certainly an effective antiseptic but it stings like the dickens. Plus, it’s actually a little harsh to put directly in an open wound.

These days a lot of people use Neosporin ointment. Not a good idea.

The active ingredient in Neosporin ointment is the antibiotic neomycin. Neomycin is in the category of antibiotics known as aminoglycosides.

There are a couple things wrong with using an antibiotic in a wound.

For one thing, topical antibiotics aren’t especially effective. They don’t work very well for preventing infection in a wound.

Another reason: we should use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary and when no other good alternative exists. I’m sure that by now you’re aware of the increasing incidence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Overuse of antibiotics is a leading cause.

Yet another reason to stay away from Neosporin is the fact that it has a very high incidence of allergic reaction. Somewhere around 10% of people will develop sensitivity after a few days of use. That rate goes up even higher as people get older.

Here’s a Natural Alternative to Treat a Minor Cut

So if you’re not going to use Neosporin what should you use?

I’m glad you asked. There are a couple of natural remedies that are extremely effective. The one we use most frequently in our home today is medical honey.

Medical honey is honey produced by bees that have foraged on Manuka (also known as tea tree) shrubs.

Medical honey is marketed under the brand name Medihoney in the United States. You can find it in most pharmacies.

You can also find Manuka honey in a health food store. The downside of that honey is it may not have been handled as carefully in production as medical grade honey.

Whether or not to use it is your call. I will say that I’ve used honey from the health food store on myself and my family without any problems.

The only thing you might want to be careful about is using honey on someone who has a history of allergy to bees. Although the risk of a serious reaction is extremely low, it’s best to be on the safe side.

So for minor cuts and scrapes skip the Neosporin. Clean the wound well with plain tap water, Pat it dry with a clean towel, then apply some honey and a bandage.

And if it’s for someone in your family, remember the hug and a kiss.

There are other natural options I write about elsewhere that you can check out.

And here are a couple of references if you’re interested:

Mandal MD, Mandal S. Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. 2011;1(2):154-160. doi:10.1016/S2221-1691(11)60016-6.

Maddocks SE1, Jenkins RE Honey: a sweet solution to the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance? Future Microbiol. 2013 Nov;8(11):1419-29. doi: 10.2217/fmb.13.105