On the Internet, we talk a lot about hacks. You know, little things that are supposed to make your life way easier. While we usually apply "hacks" to things like cooking or cleaning, I started wondering: Are there psychology-based brain hacks that might make every day life easier? We all know that our brains control what we do, how we feel, and how we respond to one another, so is it possible that we can employ some nifty little tricks to make functioning in the day-to-day more of a breeze than it usually seems?
An AskReddit thread poses a similar question, asking users, "What are some brain hacks that a neuroscientist or psychologist would know that most people don't?" Of course, as is the norm in Reddit, users posted anonymously, so it's hard to determine if people's credentials are legitimate or not. So I decided to do some research of my own and discovered that, yes, there are tons of awesome little "hacks" from psychologists and other brain experts out there.
In fact, many psychologists and mental health specialists agree that little things we train our brains to do can make our lives easier. Now, hacks aren't necessarily solving the "big picture" stuff (a hack likely isn't going to change your entire personality, or make someone fall in love with you on the drop of a hat), but they might may help you deal with little things in an easier or more comfortable way. Here are the ones which stood out to me the most, for the day-to-day ways to make your life a little easier.
1. In Relationships, Focus On Small Acts Of Love
When your relationship is hitting a lull, or you're really trying to impress someone new, it's tempting to pull out all the stops. While big surprises or fancy evenings out can be awesome (and if you enjoy them, don't stop!) there's something to be said for small, consistent acts of love and caring on a regular basis. Seriously: Psychologists agree that while our brains light up at the idea of a big act of affection, our brains also recognize small, every day acts of love as something to cherish.
Basically, because our brains love routines, if we come to expect and appreciate caring signs of affection and care on a regular basis, it becomes comforting and reliable in a way that makes us feel secure in our relationships. So next time you feel yourself tempted to go over the top, take a step back and consider what you do on the day-to-day to light up your loved one's life.
2. In Learning, Focus On Exercise
When it comes to learning, there are already tons of "hacks" out there for getting a better memory or achieving more retention when you're cramming for an exam or a big project at work. However, one lesser talked about hack has to do with exercise. That's right: Psychologists agree that just moving your body can be beneficial to your learning process. Basically, working out can help you learn because regular exercise may help your brain reduce memory loss. You can strengthen your brain while strengthening your body at the same time. Pretty awesome, right?
3. In Memorization, Put Information Into Chunks
You know how you can remember a phone number even if you rarely actually dial it? Or how you know your Social Security number off the top of your head, though you hardly ever write it out? While we obviously give certain information a preference in our brains because it's, well, important to us, it's also because these sets of information come to us in handy chunks. Basically, psychologists recognize that it's easier to memorize things when we group them together.
So instead of memorizing an entire 10-digit phone number, you likely split into whatever "chunks" make sense - telephone numbers, for example, usually come in chunks of three, with an area code and two "chunks" of numbers following it. You can easily apply this method to other things you need to memorize, from other numerical codes, to acronyms, to definitions.
4. In Social Situations, Focus On Someone's Eye Color
If you're someone who gets nervous in social situations, or simply struggles to remember people's names, a good hack is to take note of someone's eye color when you learn their name. The psychology behind this is basically that when you take an extra few seconds to notice and remember something about someone, their name is more likely to click in your brain because you're associating it with a single, specific detail and not just their entire being. Most psychologists recommend going by eye color because you're (probably) making eye contact when you meet someone anyway, but you could use any association you want.
5. In Sleepless Situations, Record Your Dreams
This hack stands out to me a lot, as I'm someone who frequently struggles to sleep through the night. If you've ever had a nightmare or otherwise restless night of sleep, you know just how frustrating and helpless it can feel to toss and turn in bed all night when you know you have an obligation to meet in the morning. Now, people's nightmares can stem from all different places, so if something is really pervasive, it's good to talk to a mental health professional and get their feedback.
However, if you're just trying to figure out what is going on in your head that keeps waking you up, a simple "hack" is to make a point of recording what you remember from your dreams each time you wake up. It's also a good habit to get into to record any physical symptoms you feel as well, as sometimes waking up in the night is a sign of a physical issue, not a mental one.
So, there you have it! There are actually tons of psychology-based hacks you can use in every day life, just depending on what area of your life you're looking to delve into or improve. Even though we often associate "hacks" with things we do to make our chores or obligations a little easier, there's no reason we can't apply the same concept to our emotional and mental well-being.