The human mind is a vast and complicated…mess.
Sometimes, it can seem impossible to get a handle on everything that’s going in our life, from personal challenges, to emotional burdens, work, love, family, and everything in between.
However, psychology– the study of the mind– offers countless “hacks” for helping us deal with life in a way that doesn’t just make it easier to handle our challenges, but also helps us enjoy ourselves more in general.
In fact, with the development of positive psychology over the past two decades, psychology can help us live our best life, from working through stress or anxiety to interacting with others.
I told my therapist I was having nightmares about nuclear explosions. He said don’t worry it’s not the end of the world.
– Jay London
Here are seven psychological hacks therapists swear by:
1. Say it out loud to handle strong emotions
Emotions such as anger can be so strong at times that they appear to take control of us. However, if you can shift your center of thinking from what you’re feeling in the moment to the thinking part of your brain, you can negate some of the immediate effects of strong emotional responses and manage your emotions better.
For that reason, if you’re feeling a particularly strong emotion, simply say something like “there is anger in me” to identify the anger in a non-personal way and shift the focus over to the thinking part of the brain.
2. Grab an ice cube to deal with anxiety
In a similar way, when experiencing anxiety, you can wrench your focus from the source of panic to something physical to regain control.
For example, grab an ice cube. The sharp coldness of the ice cube will be heavily distracting, so much so that it becomes difficult to focus on the anxiety.
The same can be done with anything hot or stimulating to the senses. By stepping away from the anxiety, even for a moment, it becomes easier to control.
In an interview with Bustle, San Diego-based psychotherapist Edie Stark said: “The simple task of taking a five-minute walk around the block can reengage your brain’s ability to focus. If you can’t go outside due to weather or job restrictions, simply walking around your office hallways can help you to reset.”
4. Write for clarity
If you’ve never tried it, don’t underestimate writing as a powerful therapeutic tool.
No matter what you’re feeling, take a few moments to write it down, what happened to make you feel this way, and what was the outcome of the situation.
The most important thing here is to pay attention to whether an outcome lines up with the way you anticipate it. Revisit your journal entries to paint a clearer picture of reality vs. your perception of it.
Doing this repeatedly can better help you distinguish between irrational thoughts and give you clarity during challenges.
Over the past decade, mindfulness has become one of the most common therapeutic tools used by professionals. It helps improve resilience and can help in terms of managing anxiety and depression. It’s also useful for helping us become more focused, centered, and happy.
But mindfulness isn’t some out-of-reach meditation method that takes hours, days, or longer to learn. In fact, if you have a minute, you can learn it in as little as 60 seconds.
By becoming aware of the natural flow of your breath for even a few seconds, following each inhale and exhale, you’re able to center your mind and improve your focus, which is useful in countless situations.
6. Name 5 things to deal with overwhelm
According to Dr. Crystal I. Lee, owner of LA Concierge Psychologist, if you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, “name five things you see, four things you feel, three things you can hear, two things you smell, and one thing you taste” to bring yourself back down to Earth.
She says this exercise takes you out of your head, the breeding ground of the overwhelm, and roots you in the present.
7. Chew gum to calm your nerves
If you’re feeling particularly nervous or tense, chewing gum can help.
According to psychologist Ryan Anderson, “By chewing gum, you are basically tricking your brain into thinking you are comfortable. Rather than getting flustered and panicky (which takes a lot of energy), your brain reasons that because you are doing something else (chewing gum), you mustn’t be worried or nervous — if you were, you wouldn’t be doing something like chewing gum.”