For the seeker of enlightenment, there is nothing to fear and much to learn from the secrets of neuroscience.
Brain tricks — sometimes called hacks — are mental shortcuts designed to enhance life’s success.
The richness of these truths can be documented through the research of neuroscience and its student discipline, embodied cognition.
What follows is a stack of reliable insights known to boost key areas of human life: communication, personal relationships, business management, trauma coping skills, and more. These simple mind tricks are used to tackle the goals of self-esteem, success, and happiness.
To boost communication, listen more. It wouldn’t hurt to be more empathetic, too.
Sounds reasonable, but there’s more: mimicking the speaker, in gestures or stance, enhances the mutual dialogue. Mirroring the other’s actions stimulates particular brain neurons (called mirror neurons) in yourself, which enables you better to understand and appreciate the speaker. (Imitation facilitates social cognition.)
Embodied cognition teaches us that the sensual dimension affects the social dimension. Holding a warm mug, sitting on a soft chair, burning a log in the fireplace — all of these warm and touching factors foster friendship. The effect on participants is to embrace a mutual (subconscious) emotional resonance.
Warmth and softness have been found to be associated with kindness, social affiliation, and acceptance. Both create an embodied effect on the emotions. The motor cortex leads the dance in partnership with the higher functions, located in the brain’s prefrontal area.
Start with exercise. Exercise seems to exert super-influence on all of the topics listed here.
Let’s include posture. Leadership demands getting things done, setting an example, becoming a role model. Public image is important, along with the proper emphasis on guidance and support. Do not slouch. Slumping decreases intelligence and focus.
Here’s a short list on the basics:
- Cross arms for persistence
- Lie down for insight
- Nap for performance
- Gesture for persuasion
Trauma Coping Skills
Resilience, that’s the name of the game. Perhaps the greatest defense against depression, heartbreak, and just plain pathos is physical exercise. A regular routine should be simple and moderate, but neither too moderate nor too stressed. Find a Golden Mean. The practice of athletic motion boosts the mind’s health, intelligence, and mood. Exercise slows down the onset of Alzheimer’s, too.
Sleep on a regular schedule for at least seven hours each night. Prepare your sleeping area to be dark and comfortable. Shut out noise and meditate. Drink warm milk or herbal tea. Sleep is a potent healer that repairs tired brain neurons, releases growth hormones, and does internal bookkeeping.
Posture is king. All it takes is a minute, according to studies. Open up the arms and legs, stand (or sit) tall, expand the chest, dominate space. The self-esteem pose urges the motor cortex to speak to the inner mind, creating a sense of pride.
Also: Deepen voice pitch. Believe it or not, lowering your voice strengthens the perception of yourself to others, and to yourself.
Think big. Think smart. Think outside the box. One lesson from goal-setting research is to start. That’s right. Just start.
Keep the plan realistic, but accept a challenge. Focus more on the process and less on the outcome. (Find a mutual balance.) Another great hack: express future ideas in writing. Writing has been found to be a fulcrum in lessening fears, organizing details, and encouraging willpower. Finally: increase aerobic fitness to enhance all things.
Gratitude comes first. Think of something to be grateful for. Practice the art at least once a day. Think of something different each time. Keep it fresh. It’s a form of prayer that offers cognitive, well-researched benefits. The greater the number of grateful items you can think of, the better. The more unique the items, the better. In weeks you’ll feel happier.
Once again, posture counts. Those sitting in a constricted pose eat less than those adopting an expansive pose. If you must eat dessert, save it for last: refined carbs stimulate the appetite. Slow down, eat small bites. (It takes time for the brain to catch up and feel satisfied.) Also, sleep well. Proper sleep modifies poor eating habits.
Exercise, of course. Also, learn new skills. Tackle brain teasers, read books, solve puzzles, volunteer, take classes, and socialize often. The emotional effects of great friendships keep the mind resilient.
Zhong, C., & Leonardelli, G. (2008). Cold and Lonely: Does Social Exclusion Literally Feel Cold? Psychological Science, 19 (9), 838-842 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02165.x
Stel, M., Dijk, E., Smith, P., Dijk, W., & Djalal, F. (2011). Lowering the Pitch of Your Voice Makes You Feel More Powerful and Think More Abstractly. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3 (4), 497-502. DOI: 10.1177/1948550611427610
Allen, J., Gervais, S., & Smith, J. (2013). Sit Big to Eat Big: The Interaction of Body Posture and Body Concern on Restrained Eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 37 (3), 325-336. DOI: 10.1177/0361684313476477
Snyder, S. (2011). How Your Coffee Mug Controls Your Feelings.
Dean, J. (2011). 10 Simple Postures That Boost Performance.
Dean, J. (2011). 11 Goal Hacks: How to Achieve Anything .