Everyone loves a good life hack — especially when it seems like something you can only learn in therapy — because therapists have a way of helping you come at daily problems from a slightly different angle. Whether it's a tip that can make your relationships healthier, advice that can help you reach your goals, or wise words to improve how you feel each day, these little pearl drops of wisdom can feel invaluable.
And yes, you can pick them up right here on the internet. But it never hurts to go to actual therapy, either. "If someone is feeling 'stuck' in their day-to-day life or in their relationships, this might be a good time to seek help," therapist Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT tells Bustle. "Also, therapy can be helpful after a major life change ... as it’s a safe place for people to grieve the losses in their lives."
There's no shame in popping into a therapist's office, reaching out to a life coach, or even calling a wise friend or family member to pick their brains and ask for support and advice. If you're having a problem — no matter what kind — there's likely a way to fix it, navigate it, or deal with it. Depending on what you need to hear in life, you might find one of these life hacks helpful. And if not, don't hesitate to reach out to a therapist for real.
1. How To Check In With Yourself
One thing therapists teach their patients is how to "check in" with themselves by doing a full body scan. "Simply taking a few minutes to find a comfortable position, breathe slowly and steadily, and take some time starting at your head and working your way down your body noticing how your body feels," is all you have to do, Kailee Place, LPC, owner of Shifting Tides Therapeutic Solutions, tells Bustle.
Doing a full body scan can help you acknowledge any areas of discomfort and tension, and help you ease your stress. "We often don't notice until the end of the day or even the end of the week how much stress and tension we're holding onto," Place says. "Taking a moment to scan brings some awareness to these areas and allows for some stretching or relaxing."
2. How To Stay Cool During Disagreements
The thing to keep in mind when you're arguing with someone is that "it is truly impossible to change how someone else feels and acts, and it is continually disappointing and frustrating to try," clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Katie S. Davis tells Bustle. The only thing you can do, is "change your own behavioral and emotional [response]."
Take a toxic interaction you might have with a parent, for example. "If I am reactive to disagreements with and criticism from my mom, I may find myself defending myself or engaging in an argument to prove why I am correct," Dr. Davis says. "This only serves to escalate the situation: my mom digs in her heels, and I get even more frustrated, angry, defensive, and argumentative."
But it doesn't have to be that way. "Therapy has taught me to change the interaction by changing my own behavior rather than by trying to force my mom to see my point," Dr. Davis says. "Now, I acknowledge her point of view, and then I simply remove myself from the conversation. Since she doesn't get a reaction from me, she has generally stopped initiating those sorts of conversations." Genius, right?
3. How To Protect Yourself
If you're a giving, caring person, you probably find yourself caught up in the everyday dramas of your friends and family, as you try to help them navigate the rough patches and feel better. But at what cost?
If you find that others are dragging you down, do what therapists suggest and learn how to protect yourself. "Removing [yourself] from other people's stresses and conflicts [can make your life] a lot more streamlined and easy," Dr. Davis says. "It gives [you] more time to fix the things that [you] can control and that are actually important to [you], which [can make you] feel more competent and successful."
4. How To "Reframe"
"When someone is struggling with a situation they are frustrated with or upset about, I suggest they write down at least three reframing statements," psychotherapist Karen M. Carlucci, LCSW tells Bustle. "For example, if someone did not get the new job they were hoping for and is overwhelmed with disappointment, written statements such as, 'It's not the worst thing in the world I didn't get that job' or 'I am open to learning from this experience' can shift the negative, self-punishing thinking to a more positive, optimistic mindset."
This is a technique used in cognitive behavioral therapy, and it can really help make your life feel more positive. After writing these statements down, you can then "read [them] when the negative thoughts return," Carlucci says. "I recommend they read them when they wake up and before going to bed."
5. How To Fake It Till You Make It
If you aren't feeling it in life right now, life coaches and therapists often suggest people try the ol' "fake it till you make it" trick. "In my practice, I say this at least 10 times a day," psychiatrist Jenys Allende, MD tells Bustle. "For example, I commonly hear, 'I have no energy' and ask, 'OK, so what would a person with energy do?'" And whatever your answer is — do that.
It may feel strange at first, but stick with it until you stop feeling like it's forced. Feeling nervous? Act confident. Feeling tired? Act energized. "Fake it, then repeat," Allende says. "Pretty soon you will find that faking it is not as hard, and then you will find that you are actually enjoying this."
6. How To Get Through An Anxious Moment
Ever notice how anxiety can overwhelm your brain, and make you assume the worst? Believe it or not, when that happens, it can actually be helpful to go with it and allow yourself to "imagine the worst possible outcome and then design a response plan," Carlucci says. "This allows [you] to feel prepared."
While it may sound counterproductive, it's a trick therapists teach anxious clients that can actually help them get through super stressful moments, and come out the other side.
7. How To Have Gratitude
If you need a little pick-me-up, nothing beats sitting down and making time for some gratitude — either by making a list, writing a letter, or simply thinking about all the good things you've got goin' for you.
"Gratitude is a proven pathway to happiness," Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Bustle. "It is a key feature in the positive psychology literature and many therapeutic approaches make use of it."
But therapists often suggest patients direct that gratitude outward. "One expression of this practice is to write a letter to someone who made a difference in your life about what they did for you and how it impacted you, and then to go read it to them," Bilek says. "It can be a high school teacher, a favorite aunt — anyone who impacted you positively. People who have done this report that they got even more out of this than the person they read it to."
Little "hacks" like these can help you turn a bad day around, have better relationships, and even reach your goals. But if you feel like you need to hear it from the source, go ahead and see a therapist IRL. They'll have even more life hacks, and ones that you can apply to your specific problems.