In this post I explore how subliminal messages can help you motivate yourself to create a good habit. Want to walk more? Keep those shoes by your bed. Want to eat well? Put healthy images around your kitchen. I’ve included tips for work, health and relationships to help you get started.
When I mentioned subliminal messages in the introduction, you may have thought that this post was going to hypnotise you. Well, the idea of creating messages subliminally is a type of hypnosis but this is not what I’m talking about. What I am offering is that by creating visual messages for you to see everyday, will help create the spark needed to motivate yourself to create a good habit.
“The simplest definition of motivation boils down to wanting (Baumeister, 2016). We want a change in behavior, thoughts, feelings, self-concept, environment, and relationships.”
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar
I love this quote because it is simple and true. When you want to add a new habit into your life, you need to motivate yourself to create a good habit. What’s the best way to do this? By doing a little every single day towards that goal. Sounds simple but the reality is, motivation is a lot harder than we think. Staying motivated is even harder.
If it takes 21 days to form a habit, we need to consistently – each day – do something towards forming that habit. We still then have 180 days to create a new neural pathway which guarantees that new habit will stick. So there are a few factors that hinder our success.
If we want something and want to change a behaviour, thought, feeling etc we need to commit to making that change. Motivation is what drives this. In order to be motivated in a way that we can stick to the activity, we need to want to do the activity in the first place. The secret to motivating yourself to create a good habit lies here. We must want to do the activity that will help us make the change.
When you work on a long-term goal like losing weight, the focus is often on the outcome of achieving the goal weight you have set. However, the number of outcomes you will get as a result of losing the weight will be many and we often do not focus on those. It is easier to work towards a short-term goal that offers more immediate results. This is why the fitness industry tends to lead their marketing by promoting results in the shortest amount of time.
We now know that losing weight in the shortest amount of time is not effective or sustainable in the long-term. For the most effective results and continued success, a lifestyle change is required. However, this takes time and effort to keep yourself motivated.
You can read more about the psychology of motivation here and how positive psychology can help.
A subliminal message is a technique used in marketing and other media to influence people without their being aware of what the messenger is doing.
This may involve the use of split second flashes of text, hidden images, or subtle cues that affect the audience at a level below conscious awareness.
“Marketing with subliminal messages aims to encourage the purchase of the product through subtle effects that are not normally visible to the naked eye. It’s not only the images that are used to get into your head; sounds and other techniques are also used to help the message sink into your subconscious.”
I’m going to take this paragraph and break it down to apply to the good habit you want to create. The ‘purchase’ is your motivation and the ‘product’ is the activity you need to do.
Therefore, if you can create your own subliminal messages, ones that feel good to you, then you are more likely to be able to motivate yourself to create a good habit.
I’ve put together 3 examples that can be applied to your work, health and relationships so that you can motivate yourself to create a good habit. These can be used together. The point is that you’re not berating yourself to create the habit, you are persuading yourself to do it. The messaging needs to be subtle but also available to you wherever you are. Essentially, seeing these messages regularly enough, will eventually lead to you actually creating the habit. Think of it as tricking your brain.
Put post-its around your house with one to a few words that will help you feel good about doing the activity. So if you want to find a new job, you may need to apply to a certain amount of roles. How will you feel if you apply to 5 jobs a day? Hopefully that will make you feel good. If it does, that’s the message you need to write down. Something like: “Apply for 5 jobs” “I feel accomplished” “ Do it by 12pm.” You have to use your own words for this to work. Be careful that the post-its are not critical. Keep them based on the answer to how you will feel when you’ve done the task.
We all know how important it is to exercise. You probably feel great after you’ve done a walk, run, swim, cycle etc but often the want to continue is difficult to maintain. You can use the post-its again and put things on them about how good you feel when you do the particular activity. In addition to this, if you wanted to run or walk, place your work-out clothes next to your bed and your trainers there too. Seeing these daily, will eventually help you put them on. And once they’re on, you’re more likely to go out. You can also try it by wearing the work-out clothes when you wake.
Post-its work great here too by creating ‘affirmation-style’ notes. Just be sure to keep the tone in the positive and factual. Refrain from writing desire-based mantras because that can suggest ‘lack’ in your mind subliminally and we don’t want that. Another super fun and successful way to build your self-confidence with relationships is to create a vision board of what you want. Place the vision board around the key places in your home like the bedside, bathroom, kitchen, living room. Eventually you will only be attracted to what you have placed on your vision board rather than going after the first person that pays you attention.
You can use all three techniques for each habit you’re trying to create and of course, create your own.
If you are still not sure how this will work, here’s the science behind it.
Shevrin, H. “Does the Averaged Evoked Response Encode Subliminal Perception? Yes.” (1975)
You can access the research paper here.
Research showed that people’s responses to a given stimulus were statistically lower when subjects were consciously aware, but when the stimuli was presented in a subliminal fashion the response rate was significantly higher.
Despite people being unaware of the stimuli, measurements suggest that our minds do still become aware. This suggests that while the mind is not consciously aware of any messages, the subconscious mind can pick up on the subliminal information and respond in the same way as if it was received under regular conditions.