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10 Simple Tricks To Make Your Brain Do What You Want

10 Simple Tricks To Make Your Brain Do What You Want

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.

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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?

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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.

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    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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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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