According to Richard Davidson, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Healthy Minds, “Our brains are continuously being hacked—by the media, by everything around us. At the end of the day, write down three good things that happened to you. That’s a way of hacking your brain in a positive way by calling attention to positive features that tend to fly under the radar.” Here are some more hacks we discovered while putting together the How to Be Mentally Healthier story in the October issue.
Load-shed Your Stress
Being stressed out simply means that the demands you face—emotional, professional, etc.—are greater than your resources, greater than your energy. Reduce those demands by delegating tasks or by taking them off your plate altogether. Bolster your resources by taking a walk and getting an overpriced coffee.
Quit Being Your Own Worst Enemy
Yes, a few drinks at the end of the day might take the edge off. But the next morning, even if you’re not full-on hungover, you’re slightly less sharp. Same goes with staying up all night to work or bingeing on junk food. You’ll always have to pay interest on all forms of short-term relief.
Remember: The World Isn’t Fair
If someone wrongs you, obsessing over it only gives them more power. Even worse, it wastes time. Letting go might seem like capitulation, but it actually returns the power to you. You get back all the time that would’ve been wasted. Use it elsewhere.
Be Nice, Feel Better
It’s counter-intuitive, but you actually have to focus on another person—any person on the sidewalk will do. In your mind, silently, wish them happiness and relief from suffering. That’s it. Now try the next person who passes by. And the next. Feel that warmth? It’s corny, but it works.
Get Up 15 Minutes Early
Give yourself unstructured time to move slowly in the morning. Beginning the day with a panicked rush to leave the house sets you up for more stressful reactions throughout the day. Also: Leaving 15 minutes early mitigates your chances of experiencing road rage. It’s science.
Use an Emotional Color Wheel
Yes, it feels a bit like you’re in a middle school counselor’s office to look at this rainbow wheel and decide whether you’re feeling “distraction” or “apprehension.” But once you’ve named the emotion, you’re one step closer to being able to deal with it. There are a variety of wheels out there. We like Dr. Robert Plutchik’s. Screenshot it and keep it on your phone and look at it whenever you feel like things are getting out of hand.
Try Some Breathing Exercises
There’s a whole spectrum of breathing exercises and you can get super woo-woo with it. But the fact is that flooding your brain with oxygen is immediately helpful in almost any situation. Look around a little on YouTube. Find out what works for you. Pranayama is popular with the Goop crowd.
To contact the author of this story: GQ