When we sunbathe on a warm day, we notice sensations outside our body, such as the sun shining down, as well as sensations within our body, such as relaxed muscles. Beyond this basic awareness, we are also conscious of ourselves having these experiences. Psychologists define consciousness as the awareness we have of ourselves and our environment.
Consciousness is not static: experiences constantly move in and out of our awareness as our states of mind and environments change. If we fall asleep while sunbathing, we may dream and experience thoughts, feelings, and unconscious desires that aren’t always present in our waking state. Drugs and alcohol can also alter consciousness. Alcohol makes us less conscious of our physical sensations and less inhibited, and drugs such as LSD can alter consciousness even more dramatically. Our level of consciousness is, in many ways, both within and out of our control.