Do you feel as if you’re out of control? You need to take charge, and make your brain do what you want. Consider that your brain works like a computer. If your computer’s not doing what you want, you can change the programs.

Change the programs your brain’s running with some simple tricks.

1. Clear your mind by decluttering your life.

Do you feel confused or easily distracted? Your surroundings affect the way you think and feel. Moreover, when you throw away, or give away the things you no longer need, it’s a symbolic act. You’ll be amazed that you feel lighter, and more focused. Try it. Open a desk drawer, and tidy it up, discarding as many items as you can.

If you’re a hoarder, it can be a challenge to break this habit. Try this: decide that for every item you bring into the house, you will remove at least one thing.

2. Be healthy—eliminate food cravings by substituting natural foods for refined foods.

Researchers have discovered that when you give into food cravings, the chemicals released can change your brain. Our cave men ancestors craved nutrients like fat, sugar, and salt, and we do too. Unfortunately, today these substances are highly refined, so that we get more of them more easily than we could if we ate natural foods. When we give into our cravings, we get an endorphin high, and we can become addicted to the rush we get.

Trick your brain by substituting natural foods for refined foods. Eat unprocessed foods as much as possible, and use healthy sugar substitutes like stevia. Crave chocolate? Try carob as a healthy substitute. You’ll gradually eliminate cravings.

3. Do it NOW. Conquer procrastination by using rituals.

If procrastination is a challenge, build a “do it NOW” habit by developing rituals. Rituals conquer inertia, and your moods will no longer control you.

Here’s an easy ritual to develop a healthy exercise habit. Schedule exercise at a specific time each day. When that time arrives, change into your exercise gear immediately, without thinking about it.

My writing ritual each day is to make a cup of coffee, and take it into my office. I’ve done this for so long, that when I walk into my office with my coffee, I’m in the mood to write.

Ensure that your ritual is a physical activity. Thinking about what you need to do leads to procrastination; be active.

4. Trash negative thoughts with music and movement.

Here’s a simple trick to feel more positive: turn on some happy music. Get up and dance. Within a minute or two, you’ll feel much more positive.

Try it the next time you’re swamped with negativity. Be aware of how negativity feels. Your body feels heavy. Turn on your music, and dance. Then consider how you feel: you feel lighter, don’t you?

5. Practice gratitude so that your brain floods with norepinephrine, and you feel good.

What are you grateful for? Make a list of three things. Everyone has three things they love, and for which they feel grateful.

From an article by Rick Hanson, who’s a psychologist and best-selling author:

“Research suggests that when people practice gratitude, they experience a general alerting and brightening of the mind, and that’s probably correlated with more of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine.”

6. Think the best of people and make more friends.

Harvey, film

I love this quote from the movie Harvey. The hero of the movie, Elwood P. Dowd, has a best friend who’s a pooka, an invisible six foot rabbit. Elwood has a philosophy of life that’s very simple:

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

Be pleasant. Not only will you make more friends, but you’ll also be happier. The next time someone is nasty, consider their action from their point of view. Maybe they’re just having a bad day.

7. Expand time by increasing the input to your brain.

Become actively involved in learning. Doing new activities, and learning new things tricks your brain into thinking that less time has passed. Time seems to expand. If you’ve always wanted to learn to cook, or to hang glide, or learn a language, get started; you have plenty of time.

8. Use autosuggestion—“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”

Autosuggestion tricks your brain. French psychologist Émile Coué created the positive-thinking mantra: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better”.

Giving yourself positive suggestions tricks your brain into believing them. We’re all suggestible. If we weren’t, marketing wouldn’t be a billion dollar global industry. Look at autosuggestion as positive advertising you do for yourself. Autosuggestion can make a huge difference in your life.

From the Wikipedia entry on Coué:

Unlike a commonly held belief that a strong conscious will constitutes the best path to success, Coué maintained that curing some of our troubles requires a change in our unconscious thought, which can be achieved only by using our imagination.

You can change your unconscious thought—your mental programming—by using positive suggestions. Try using them 20 times in the morning and the evening, as Coué recommended.

9. Exercise to change your brain.

Did you know that exercise produces changes in your brain? Who knew that exercise was such a powerful trick?

A university study reports:

In a study of 25 healthy adults, Dr Michelle McDonnell and her team found that the brain was able to more effectively rewire nerve connections – termed neuroplasticity – in the hand after 30 minutes of low intensity cycling.

If you hate exercise, the study suggests that you don’t need to become a gym junkie to trick your brain into changing itself. Go for a daily walk instead.

10. Do creative work when you’re tired.

If you’re a creative worker, the idea that you can do your best creative work when you’re tired may be news to you.

Most creatives, such as writers, musicians and designers, schedule their creative work when they’re wide awake, fresh and alert. Alter your schedule and try doing your work when you’re tired. You may just trick your brain into being more creative.

So, there we have it: ten tricks to make your brain do what you want. Try a couple of them, or all of them.

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