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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 September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

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    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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