How to trick yourself into being happier
Ever since I was a child, I have been confused, anxious and frustrated by a number of things beyond my control as well as plenty within it.
I was the sort of kid who gave up on a brand new colouring book because I got outside the lines on the first picture and I wanted it to be perfect.
This led to the development of a series of interesting personal coping methods that pretty much involve tricking my own brain in one way or another almost every day.
Perhaps it sounds unhealthy (and maybe it is) but it’s actually quite effective and I think it’s my responsibility to share my tactics with the rest of the world.
These tips can be used for typical mood adjustments, perspective gaining, or justification of slightly iffy decisions – financial or otherwise.
- Do you feel guilty for playing The SIMS all day? Did you spend your only day off sleeping in until midday and then getting drunk? Are you really comfortable on the couch, watching Sex and the City but starting to listen to the little voice in your head saying “you’re a lazy piece of effluent and you should be outside playing!”?Well, to start with, who ‘plays’ anyway? How do you even ‘play’? The best way to beat the guilt of laziness is to imagine something terrible happening to you if you leave the house. It could be the simple getting-hit-by-a-bus scenario or something more butterfly effect-ish. With the knowledge that you have safely dodged a bullet, your newly tricked brain will be so flooded with relief that you will be able to continue enjoying your chosen recreational activity.
- There is a special feeling of self-hatred reserved for the moment you realize you’ve received a parking/speeding/other fine. “I AM SO STUPID,” is usually what goes through my head when I make an expensive mistake like this. “WHY DID I DO THAT?” And, without anybody but myself to blame, I usually say a few half-hearted nasty things about whoever caught me doing the Very Bad Thing and then give up and mope. “If only I had that $397 back, I would spend it on all the things I really wanted but couldn’t justify!” I think. Because money spent on a fine could be better spent on almost anything else.This is double-barrel trick fodder. On the one hand, you can pretend that, if you didn’t pay the fine, you and everyone you love would be killed. This makes the otherwise overblown fee very worthwhile and, probably, even much less than you’d really be prepared to pay to avoid something like that. On the other hand, once this has happened to you, whenever you want an expensive thing, you can pretend that you only have two options: to buy the expensive thing, or pay a fine of twice that amount and receive nothing in return. When you really start thinking about it, the psychology of the monetary fine has endless possibilities for brain tricking.
- Everybody (except Felix, apparently) has had at least one moment in their life when they have made deals with some sort of imaginary/spiritual essence, usually along the lines of, “if my brother lives through this case of what I think might be meningococcal, I will never be sad again,” or, “if I’m approved in this house application, I’ll never want another thing,”. Like that bit in Harry Potter when he says he’ll put all his money into some golden fountain if something does or doesn’t happen. I can’t remember what.Of course, unlike in Harry’s case, those deals are completely impossible to live up to. But they are useful for future brain tricking. As long as the thing didn’t actually happen. Or did happen, depending. Whenever something shitty happens, all you have to do is think really hard about some terrible thing that almost happened in the past. Pretend like it’s at risk of happening right now. Then allow yourself to remember that it isn’t happening. Voila! The shitty thing you’re currently dealing with seems less bad. Hopefully. I guess that one depends on how bad the shitty thing is to start with, but it’s up to you to find something worse than the present.
- Did you get something for free once? Did you buy something on sale? That’s money you can subtract off something expensive one day. Did you get your cheese half price? Did you save twenty dollars on your new laptop?Pretend you spent it anyway and then add it all up and buy something luxurious that costs slightly less than that. You’ve still made money sort of!
As you can see, these tips are all just examples of what you can do with a very specific, tricksy frame of mind. The possibilities are endless.
This post is dedicated to my friend, Ada, because she told me I was really funny yesterday.
Got a tricking your brain tip? Let me know in the comments!