Ever feel like your brain is out to get you? Like it’s convincing you to do things that aren’t actually in your best interest? Our brain is a funny thing, and sometimes the only way to fight it is to trick it right back. Here are 10 ways you can overcome your brain’s tricks and get it to do what you want:
It’s amazing how the mere mention of cupcakes can make you crave cupcakes. Don’t give in to cravings just because your brain tricked you! Serve healthy food before the unhealthy food to curb your hunger, for example, or link up a healthy habit (like exercising) with something you do every day. The more you can reward your brain for positive things, the less it’ll crave the positive reward from something you know isn’t good for you.
You know your life is full of clutter that you don’t need, but every time you go to clean, you hardly throw anything out. For every item you touch, your brain convinces you that you “might need it one day.” Sound familiar? It’s amazing how just touching an item can cause you to feel a sense of ownership. So instead, work in reverse: what if you lost everything? What would you re-purchase and what would you let slide? If you think about it that way, you can finally kick that clutter habit for good—despite your brain’s illogical protests.
No matter how productive you are in a day, it always seems like there aren’t enough hours before bedtime. Part of this is due to the way our brains perceive time. Luckily, you can turn this around. The more information your brain has to process, the more time it feels has passed. So, to make the day feel longer, present your brain with new information regularly: keep learning, meet new people, visit new places, or learn a new skill. You’d be surprised what kind of difference it makes.
Your brain doesn’t want you to get things done. It’s always worrying about what can go wrong and will abandon ship at the first sign of distress, making it hard to achieve your goals. Luckily, you can trick your brain into getting more done, both with simple tricks (light changing the lighting or playing unfamiliar music) and a new outlook on your goals (like focusing on the long-term benefits). Treat it like any other involuntary bad habit, and you can overcome your brain’s bad choices.
When someone wrongs you, it’s hard to give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s easier to just make an enemy out of them instead. When that isn’t in your best interest—say, if that person is your boss or your sister’s boyfriend—you can trick your brain into liking them. Try working on a difficult task with that person, which will bond you together. And if they’re the ones who don’t like you, you can trick their brain into liking you by asking them for a favor.
Ever have one tiny thing ruin your entire day? That’s your brain tricking you again. Our brains like to focus on the negative. It can even convince you that you hate something you like. Don’t let it ruin your day—remember that one small issue or false start does not make the whole. Make your brain store the positive memories instead of the negative ones and you’ll remember them more fondly. (Though sometimes, negative thinking isn’t such a bad thing).
There are exceptions to your brain’s negativity, though. If you’re looking forward to something, or want something really bad, the opposite happens: your brain gets overly optimistic. It’s why anticipation makes you happier than the result usually does, or why you think you could win the lottery but smoking will only kill other people. Don’t fall for this trick, since it’ll lead to poor decision-making. Similarly, don’t confuse the number of choices you have with the importance of any given choice—like the brand of toothpaste you buy. Your brain tends to think the two are intertwined when they are obviously not.
Saving money is harder than it should be. We all know we should do it, yet as soon as we come into some cash we think “look at all this money I can spend!” This is because our minds are quick to forget what it was like to not have money. It doesn’t help that stores try to trick your brain into buying stuff, either. The solution? Trick your brain into better money habits. Adopt new money mantras and repeat them over and over, so your brain can’t tempt you. Send your money to a savings account automatically. But most importantly, think about what that money should go towards instead of just thinking “I should save” or “I shouldn’t blow it.” It’s a lot easier when you have a clear goal in mind.
Everyone wants to be happier, right? Your brain, unfortunately, makes that easier said than done. So, instead of resolving to “be happier,” resolve to do more things that make you happy. Even simple things like getting more exercise, getting better sleep, or going outside more often can make you happier without you even realizing it. Small changes can make a big difference.
It’s not surprising that our brains force us to be self-centered, but it can be detrimental. For example, you probably think you’re never wrong, you’re great at everything you do, you’re just unlucky when bad things happen, and the other lanes of traffic are always moving faster than yours. The reality is, that most of this couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, this is one area in which your brain tricks you, but you can’t really trick it back. The best thing you can do is be aware of these phenomena so you won’t fall prey to them as often.