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5 Tricks of the Mind You Need to Master

5 Tricks of the Mind You Need to Master

Our mind plays tricks on us all the time. Unfortunately, advertisers, co-workers, friends, and family around us exploit those common tricks daily. Our minds are so mischievous that we can’t really be sure that anything is the way we see it. What I have learned from my research is that our mind acts in ways that would have helped us with survival at one point. And perhaps these mind tricks still help at times, but often they are now a liability.

Here are common tricks that our brains play on us, and how we can avoid their dangers and exploit their benefits:

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1. Thinking about the future. Fearing the future.

The human ability to plan for the future is a very important part of what makes us so successful in our ability to live and thrive. Being able to plan involves making predictions about what will happen in the future, which allows us to acting accordingly. The drawback to this skill is that we sometimes let it run away with itself and see a future that causes us to be afraid.

Fear is a powerful motivator and a great tool if we are in danger, but it can plague us in modern times, when dangers aren’t so obvious and the solution to them isn’t as simple as fight or flee. In Seneca’s words, we suffer more often in imagination than in reality. If you need to approach a difficult situation, use fear as a fuel for motivation. Channel it, rather than letting it paralyze you.

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 2. Thinking about thinking about thinking…

When we are faced with the question, ‘Who am I?’ many people listen to the thoughts in their heads; the internal narrative they hear in their daily lives. However, when you recognize that voice as just thoughts, you realize that there is some other form of consciousness that is observing those thoughts. The discipline of metacognition can be called ‘thinking about thinking’, or ‘knowing about knowing’. Simply put, it allows us to realize that our thoughts aren’t set in stone and can be altered by other thoughts.

If we were to observe a person on the street who says everything that goes through their head, most of us label them as mentally unhinged. However, the same thing goes on in our heads when we let our thoughts carry on unchecked. The fact that we can change our thoughts by thinking about them is the basis for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and one of the arguments for a more spiritual aspect to humanity, or some form of larger consciousness. Thinking about your thoughts can change your thought patterns and your behavior.

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3. Old habits die hard.

Routine has been called the crutch of the mind, and that is entirely true. The remark is often made as an insult and a reason to break routine; but acting unpredictably and without routine on a daily basis would be absolutely exhausting. Habit formation is in no way unique to humans, as Pavlov’s dogs would argue, but our ability to cultivate good habits is something we can learn, once we’ve gone through the (above) process of thinking about how we act and think. Creating a ‘routine’ to frequently exercise, or to express love to a spouse, or to work without distraction, is one of the benefits of having a reprogrammable mind.

4. Winter is coming. Time to hibernate.

When winter starts to approach, our bodies are programmed to conserve energy by eating more or exercising less. This is a natural response when you are in a low-food or temperature environment, but one that is no longer necessary if you are have adequate food and heat. You will feel more tired and hungry than you have any right to be, and your body will try to store fat when it can. Don’t let it. This is one of those tricks of the mind that can’t really be used usefully, only overcome.

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5. My reality is not your reality.

Studies by Loftus and Palmer showed that eyewitnesses to car accidents can be incredibly far off the mark when estimating the speed of the vehicles and they can be influenced by the words used when they are asked questions. When it comes to street fights, baffled police frequently come across two people who are convinced that the other person threw the first punch, and neither appears to be lying.

Our minds are able to restructure our memories of an event to make us appear like the good guy, even if we weren’t. And the opposite – anybody trying to introduce themselves to somebody attractive has probably experienced ‘approach anxiety’, where any small comment or gesture becomes a hurtful insult. The positive aspect here is that we can retrain ourselves to see the good in situations instead. The wildly optimistic person may be a bit unrealistic, but it’s hard not to envy him.

Featured photo credit: Young man with pensive expression via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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