20 Ways to Use Psychology in Everyday Life

You don’t need to spend years on a psychology degree in order to better understand the world around you. Whether you’re trying to make a friend or lose weight, here are 20 ways to use psychology in everyday life.

Use psychology to find motivation.

Whether your goal is to finish a deadline, lose weight, or something else altogether, there are a ton of psychological tricks that can help you to find motivation and keep it. For example, set clear goals for yourself throughout the process. This makes the overall task seem more manageable and gives you a reason to reward yourself more frequently. Rewarding yourself for a job well done triggers the brain into wanting more of that good feeling.

Smile in order to feel happier.

Feeling a bit down in the dumps? Smile as widely as you can! Our brains are incredibly powerful, but they’re also easy to fool. Studies have shown that when we force ourselves to smile, we actually begin to feel happier.

Make friends using the Benjamin Franklin method.

Benjamin Franklin — yes, that Benjamin Franklin — once conducted an experiment on friendship. He found that we tend to like the people for whom we are able to do something, such as a favor. Conversely, we tend to dislike the people to whom we are passive or who we have hurt in some way. So next time you’re looking to make a friend, or at least a good impression, ask that person for a favor. It can be as simple as asking for their opinion about something, or as complex as borrowing something that belongs to them.

If it’s love you want, there’s a psychology trick for that, too.

A study and questionnaire published in The New York Times found that there are 36 specific questions to ask someone if you want them to fall in love with you. The questions can be simple — Would you like to be famous? When did you last sing to yourself? Before making a telephone call, do you rehearse what you’ll say? The questions can be complex. What’s your most terrible memory? Do you have a hunch about how you’ll die? What is your greatest accomplishment?

Psychology can even help you come off as more powerful.

Want to look more powerful? Or at least, convince others you are worthy of respect? Psychology can help with that. Learn to communicate your message effectively and express yourself both verbally and nonverbally. For example, maintain eye contact to evoke the feeling of confidence. You can also practice using different tones of voice to reinforce your message.

Stick to your strengths at work.

According to Dr. Robert J. Sternberg, people tend to exhibit varying degrees of three different thinking styles while at work. Those with a legislative thinking style prefer to do things their own way, and are best at creating new systems and projects. Those with a judicial style of thinking like to evaluate rules and existing structures. Offering constructive criticism is their biggest strength. Finally, those with an executive thinking style enjoy following rules, applying those rules, and solving problems. Dr. Sternberg found that when someone who tends to embody one thinking style takes on a job that emphasizes another thinking style, they often don’t perform at their very best.

Choices give the illusion of control.

If you want someone to feel like they are making a decision, but you need to retain control of the situation, simply offer the person choices. This works especially well with children. “Do you want lasagna or meatloaf for dinner tonight?”

Use subliminal signals to make others agree with you.

There is a ton of interesting information out there about using subliminal signals in your speech and body language. One especially common example of a subliminal signal is to either nod or shake your head while asking a question, depending on the response you’d most like to hear. Research has shown that this subtle action causes the other person’s focus to break ever so slightly, and in most cases, they’ll respond with the desired answer.

Sing the entire song to get it out of your head.

There’s not much that’s worse than having a song stuck on repeat inside your head. Fortunately, there’s an easy psychology trick to rid yourself of that ear worm once and for all. Our brains naturally tend to remember incomplete activity. While this can be really helpful when it comes to remembering to turn the stove off after cooking, it’s not so helpful when we only know the chorus of that song we heard on the radio yesterday. In order to free yourself of a song stuck in your head, listen to and/or sing the song in its entirety. This will “complete the activity” in your brain, allowing it to move on.

Use a small plate in order to feel full.

It takes a surprisingly long amount of time for our stomachs to communicate to our brains that we are full. Convince your brain earlier, and avoid the dreadful feeling of overeating, by piling your food onto a smaller plate, such as a salad plate. Though you’re actually eating less, your brain won’t see it that way.

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Use cognitive psychology to improve your decision making skills.

We are constantly confronted with decisions in our daily life, but making the right decision isn’t always easy. Fortunately, the field of cognitive psychology has taught us a lot about the decision-making process. Next time you’re trying to make a big decision, consider the potential pros and cons of that decision. Ask yourself how making a certain decision will satisfy any requirements you may have. Finally, look at any potential decision from multiple perspectives: rational, emotional, creative, positive, negative, etc.

Psychology can help you hone your leadership skills.

Or, at the very least, psychology can help you look and feel more like a leader. To convince everyone around you — including yourself — that you’re a born leader, allow others to voice their opinions, but vocalize your own guidance clearly. Make a point of discussing potential problems and their solutions. Finally, be encouraging of ideas and find a way to reward creativity.

Make good impressions using the Halo Effect.

The Halo Effect is a psychological trick in which positive feelings about one thing lead to more positive feelings, and ultimately, a good impression. For example, if you are interviewing for a new job, it may be worth your time to find out a little bit about the person with whom you’ll be interviewing. For example, where did they recently travel? Is there a cause or charity to which they are especially devoted? Social media can be very helpful with this. If you find out they recently took a trip to China, spend a few minutes early on talking about your own China travels. Chances are, the Halo Effect will kick in, and the interview will be yours to lose.

Use people’s first names to form a positive new relationship.

When you meet someone new, start right away by referring to them by their first name. Studies have shown that people appreciate when people they’ve just met take the time to learn and remember their name. Taking the time to learn and use the name of a new friend will go a long way in establishing trust and friendship.

Look at someone’s feet before starting a conversation.

Is there anything more awkward than starting a conversation with someone who clearly does not want to be talking to you? Fortunately, people tell a whole lot with their body language, including whether or not they’re open to having a conversation. Next time you see the opportunity to strike up a chat, take a quick glance at the other person’s feet. If the other person has turned only their body — not their feet — in your direction, psychology says they are not interesting in talking in that particular moment.

Ignore the narcissist.

Whether it’s another mom in the play group, a co-worker, or a family member, we all know a narcissist. And we’ve all probably allowed that narcissist to rile us up in one way or another at multiple points in time. But there’s one psychology trick that can both shut down the narcissist and make us feel better — silence. If you ignore and fail to react to a narcissist when they pull their narcissistic ways, they will look at their image as damaged and tone it down.

Use the element of surprise to keep people on their toes.

Research has shown that a surprise increases our emotion by a whopping 400%! So if you work as a manager, teacher, or in some other role in which you must inspire others, use the power of surprise to drive creativity and learning. For example, offer surprise rewards to your employees or students in order to stimulate their minds, encourage their creativity, and keep them on their toes.

Spot a liar.

People lie all the time, but you don’t have to fall for it. The easiest way to catch liars is to watch their eyes as they talk. If they say something then instantly turn their eyes to someone in order to seek validation, chances are they’re not telling the truth. A liar will always seek validating because he or she wants to fit in with the group.

If you want to better understand something, teach it.

Research has shown that we will understand something better if we take the time to teach it to others. Rehashing even the most difficult information to a family member — or even the family dog! — helps to sort through the most important elements and clarify the information in our own brains.

Fake it ’til you make it.

“Fake it ’til you make it” is repeated so frequently you may have forgotten that it is an actual psychological trick worth employing in your everyday life. Research has shown that when we think, talk, and act like the person we want to be, our brain begins to believe. In short, we won’t have to fake it much longer.

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