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Psychology Hacks to Improve Your Life In Unexpected Ways

Hard work, determination, talent, and a bit of luck can get you far in life, but did you know that there are sure-fire techniques based in psychology that can make you happier and more successful?

This may sound like an infomercial and you may be waiting for the pitch, but the following psychological hacks will cost you nothing and are priceless habits that can change your life.

Practice these psychological tricks and you will be well on your way to having more success with any social situations, whether it be at work, home, or your love life.

Silence is Golden

This hack works especially well with business ventures. If you work in sales, after making your sales pitch, let your potential client simmer in the awkward silence that ensues.

It’s only awkward for them because they expect you to keep trying to sell them on the product that they're not yet convinced they need. Their expectations are shattered when they see your calm and collected face waiting for a response.

The ball is in their court and most people will fumble for an excuse until they finally cave in and buy the pet rock you were trying to sell them.

Chew Gum to Reduce Performance Anxiety

If you’re nervous about a presentation that’s worth 99% of your grade then you probably chose the wrong class and your professor is a jerk...but dropping the class is not an option at that point.

All you can do is prepare and practice diligently in front of friends and family. If you’re still nervous after all that practice, try chewing gum before any nerve wracking situation.

A study done by scientists that are tackling the real issues was performed at Cardiff University in the UK. They concluded that chewing gum reduced stress levels in its participants. Some say that is because your primitive mind thinks “Hey, if I was in a potentially dangerous situation, I wouldn’t be eating.”

So next time you get an A on your Art of Jay Walking class, thank the folks over at Wrigley for sponsoring this study!

Warm Hands = Warm Feelings

Warmth is usually associated with comfort and peacefulness. It is no surprise then that a warm handshake elicits feelings of respect and desirability. A cold and clammy hand is a huge turn off for anyone, whether it be a future employer or a future girlfriend.

Of course, too much squeeze or no eye contact can screw your chances for success, but having a warm touch can be reassuring and can make the other person feel secure. Next time you shake someone’s hand make sure to have this little techno gadget in handy.

Resource: The 7 Horrible Handshakes and What They Say About You

Confidence Is Key

Depression and low self-esteem is no joke, but one easy trick you can practice to make social situations less stressful is to pretend like everyone likes you and was waiting for you when walking into a room.

It may be easier said than done, but with practice and persistence you will learn to identify your value in the world by simply pretending that you are confident.

Saying “He’s here!” without moving your lips and covering your mouth before anyone notices you is an interesting way to build yourself up. Sure, this may only work in certain situations and only with certain people and may only work one time or not at all, but hey it’s worth a shot!

Nod For a Yes

Nodding your head while asking a person a question will make a person more inclined to agree with you. Just make sure not to overdo it since it may be too distracting and you’re entire point will be invalidated. So the next time you’re in dire straits for your friends to agree with a potential pizza topping, nod for a “yes.”

Resource: The Most Common Body Language Gestures and What They Mean

Eye Contact and Laughing

If you want to gain insight into the group dynamics and social hierarchy of any set of people, just wait until someone makes a joke. Once everyone starts laughing, they will instinctively look to the person they feel closest to.

Just make sure not to read too much into things. This can work when realizing that your crush actually likes your best friend but when you’re grandma looks at you when she laughs, it’s probably nothing more than familial admiration. Probably.

Good Posture FTW!

We’ve all seen all those TED talks that talk up how important body language is, but one can never hear it enough. It’s easy to forget to fix your posture in the heat of the moment. People tend to respect those with a “perfect” posture and attribute feelings of admiration and authority towards them.

The Alexander Technique can help you realize how completely and utterly incompetent you are at using your body. You would think that 20 something years would be enough to get over the learning curve of effectively using your body. Fret not, because Frederick Matthias Alexander, a Shakespearean orator in the early 1900’s, developed lessons to teach people how to stop using unnecessary levels of muscular and mental tension for everyday activities.

Its can also help you reduce back pain and can help with people who suffer from Parkinsons’!

Smile More

Research suggests that when you fake a Duchenne smile (a genuine smile that includes contractions at the corner of the eyes) it activates the prefrontal cortex. In laymen’s terms, it means that even the most callous of sociopaths can learn to be happy, or at least fake it, and feel a slight tinge of happiness.

Smiling more will make you seem more approachable, whether you are or not is a whole other question. Positivity is easier to spread than negativity, so why not aim for it.

Remember Long Lists Using Spatial Memory

Most of us can’t remember long lists. That’s why we have to write everything down when we go shopping for groceries. Lucky for you, there is a way to trick the mind into remembering lists of items using spatial memory.

Spatial memory allows you to remember the best hole in the wall restaurants around your town without actually knowing what street they’re on. The trick is to choose a familiar place (bedroom, house, neighborhood, etc) and associate a specific location, within the layout, to a specific item.

For example, you can associate your bedroom with that air freshener that you need to buy or associate your bathroom with that toilet paper you need. These examples are fairly obvious to remember but the better you can visualize an image, the easier it is to remember the item. You can associate the six pack of IPA’s with your living room from that one time your girlfriend’s friend threw up all over your persian rug from drinking too much. See, easy!

It’s also better if you go through your list by going through a route in your head. Using spatial memory, you can remember your list by simply taking a predetermined stroll through your neighborhood.

Write It Out

Another memorization hack is to write things out. If you want to remember a goals list for the day then writing the list out engages neural activity that wouldn’t otherwise be activated.

Our penchant to use our phones may have streamlined the process for tweeting what we had for lunch, or instagramming our starbucks drinks but in some respect it has hindered our long-term memory.

An experiment performed by researchers at Indiana University have concluded that writing is not merely a tool for communication but instead it is a helpful foundation for learning and forming new ideas. If you want to offset the negative effects of all the binge drinking you did in college, then writing things out can help you learn new skills and remember not to binge drink.

Use Your Less Dominant Hand To Control Your Anger

Studies have shown that people who have anger issues can easily curb their impulse to punch walls or themselves by using their less dominant hand for simple manageable tasks, like opening doors, vacuuming, dialing on a phone, etc.

The key is that using your less dominant hand on mundane tasks forces people to focus on small manageable moments of frustration. Angry reactions are less about the anger and more about self-control. Self-control can easily be depleted, though. The key is to strengthen your self-control by taking baby steps to build a tolerance for frustration.

Refer to People By Their Name

Everyone loves talking about themselves. That’s why Twitter was invented, right?! People also love to hear the sound of their name. If you want to build a good rapport with someone you just met or someone you’ve known for years, try using their name in conversation.

Of course, if you overdo it you run the risk of coming across as a complete weirdo. Unless that’s what you’re going for then it’s ok. More power to you.

Remembering people’s name shows that they have value to you. It will help you with your career and life in general. Seriously, practice this mind hack whenever you go out to a bar or any social event and you’ll start to see your facebook friend request start piling up. That’s a good thing, right?

There are plenty more psychological hacks and will probably be more to come as scientists continue to analyze and document human interactions.

For now, the tried and true methods for achieving happiness and success are a positive mental outlook, clear goals and ways to achieve them, and a strong emotional support network (family and friends).

If you practice these psychological hacks, you will be well on your way to improving your life and handling stressful situations.

About the author

Fred Hernandez

Fred is a 25 year young musician and writer based in San Diego, CA. He has a love/hate relationship with himself but ultimately I have hope for a better future. He also loves sushi, pizza, cinnamon rolls, and free food. He is a multi-instrumental singer-songwriter for the indie band, Teenage Heavy based in San Diego, CA.

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  • Ali

    Is there any scientific research for ” people instinctively look towards the person they feel closest to when a group of people are laughing”