Want to know how to use psychology in your personal life ? Then you’re in the right place.
Everybody knows about Psychology being the study of human thought and behavior, but no one ever seems to know the exact scope of the field. In fact, whenever Psychology is mentioned, people will automatically think of counseling, thought experiments, and sometimes, mind manipulation.
People think of psychologists as people who know exactly what goes on in another person’s mind, and how it can be altered. Although some of these misconceptions are correct to some degree, most of them are far-fetched. The study of Psychology does not equate to mind reading and manipulation. It is way more than that, although not as supernatural as some people think.
Psychology does not involve mind reading – Psychologists understand how some people think, because they draw from some generalizations observed from a large number of people. However, it doesn’t mean that a psychologist can correctly read someone’s mind all the time. Psychologists merely evaluate one’s personality and behavior and make inferences on what one will most likely think or do next.
Psychology does not involve mind manipulation – The science of psychology has been around for centuries. This means that human behavior has been under the microscope of psychologists for a long time. Because of the length of time that the study has been around, thousands of researches have already proven that people’s behavior can be influenced by hundreds of things (or what psychologists prefer to call stimuli).
Psychologists do not manipulate people to get them to do what the psychologists want, without the people knowing. Psychologists just know the things that can influence people to act a certain way. They present those stimuli to the people, but in the end, the decision to behave a certain way is still up to the people to whom the stimuli are presented to.
People can benefit from knowing the basic psychological concepts by applying it in their daily lives. Because psychology focuses on the ‘self’ and its emotions, behaviors, and thoughts, one can apply psychology in:
- Managing emotions
- Improving self-esteem and self-confidence
- Improving one’s productivity and avoiding procrastination
- Managing social relationships
- Acquiring effective communication skills
How To Use Psychology In Your Personal Life
The Psychology of Procrastination
Many people find it hard to deal with their own selves when it comes to procrastination. People know that they should avoid procrastinating because of its negative impact to their life, but only a few people overcome the habit.
There are many guides available on how to avoid procrastination because of its negative impact, but only a few provide answers to why people procrastinate in the first place. In psychology, it is crucial to understand the ‘why’ of the behavior first, before one can correct it.
Here you will understand why people procrastinate. You will also learn how to use personal psychology to battle procrastination.
People’s minds are wired to prefer pleasure over pain and numbness, that is why masochism is considered a psychological disorder. People are instinctively attracted to things that are pleasurable. People feel pleasure when a certain amount of ‘pleasure hormones’ (i.e. endorphins, dopamine and serotonin) are released in the brain.
Chores, assigned tasks, and responsibilities are not considered by the brain as pleasure-related activities. For most people those things are boring, while some consider it a pain. Only a few people manage to find joy in things that they did not decide to do themselves.
When a person is doing something that he or she does not enjoy, one’s brain will instinctively try to escape it. One will almost automatically do something more pleasurable and put off the task at hand because one’s brain is asking for pleasure. It is normal. People would really have to take a break or find something pleasurable in their assigned task.
The problem begins when one cannot go back to doing what one needs to do because of the constant search for pleasure. Pleasure-seeking is an instinctive behavior, which means it is borne out of impulse. Ideally, high-level thought processes like reasoning, decision-making, planning, and problem-solving should control—if not prevent—one’s tendency to immediately act on impulse.
To put this in perspective, one can take hunger as an example. Hunger triggers an instinctive behavior (eating), but one still has to decide whether it is time to eat or not. In procrastination, a person uses several defense mechanisms to make it an acceptable behavior that cannot be controlled by a high-level of thinking. In short, an impulse was transformed into a high-level decision.
How to Use Psychology in Battling Procrastination
The key to avoiding chronic procrastination is really to find joy in what you do. That is easier said than done though, and it may take a while before you can do that. Because you are a beginner in the field of personal psychology, you can use the following techniques instead:
1. Decide on a reward that is more pleasurable than the things that you do when procrastinating
The human brain works in a reward system, so if you set a pleasurable reward for yourself for finishing your tasks, you will instinctively be attracted to it. As a result, you will change your behavior in order to achieve it.
For example, if you are procrastinating by watching a video of an artist, stop and promise yourself that you will watch a live show once your task is done. It is important that your ‘reward’ outweighs the pleasure value of the item that you use to procrastinate.
2. Remind yourself of the negative consequences
When you procrastinate, you tend to downplay the intensity of the negative consequences that procrastination will bring. Make these consequences real by reminding yourself of it as you work.
For example, if you need to finish a job that can make or break your career, put a picture of a homeless person beside your computer, or a picture of your boss. Aside from pleasure, fear is also very powerful in triggering a behavior. It may put some pressure, but the next step can help you get rid of that.
3. Set scheduled breaks
Every person can maintain the motivation to do a task for a period of time. After some time, the person’s motivation will reach a saturation point. The saturation point is when the person gets tired, bored, or lazy. To prevent yourself from procrastinating, make sure that you take a break before you reach the saturation point.
Each person’s saturation point is different, but as a rule of thumb, you should take at least 1 hour of break time in a 4-hour work period. Your 1-hour break should be spread evenly in the 4-hour duration and should be divided into short and long breaks.
4. Condition yourself to a working environment
You subconsciously associate your environment to every important thing that you do. There are times when your environment can make you behave in certain ways, just because you have been pre-conditioned to do it in that environment.
You can apply the concept of conditioning to avoid procrastination. Set a ‘stage’ for your work. Give your working space the ‘feel’ of a working environment and then try working without pause for at least an hour a day.
In just a few days, you will condition yourself to work in that same environment and you will find it hard to do other things when you find yourself in that setting. You can then gradually increase the time that you spend working in that environment until you become accustomed to it.
You will not be able to do it overnight, especially if you have procrastinated so much recently. However, it is not too late to start. Pick up your journal and plan on your reward, your schedule, and the things that you can use to remind yourself of the consequences of procrastinating.
You can then clear your workspace of the things that make you procrastinate, and arrange it so that you are comfortable. You can then start the process of conditioning and do it every day. Make sure that you chart your progress.
The Psychology of Motivation
You’ve learned about how the brain seeks pleasure. Pleasure is one of the things that motivate people to behave in a certain way. Another thing that does this is reward. Pleasure provides the feeling of happiness, while reward provides the feeling of fulfillment. Both are needed in order to motivate a person.
Motivation is defined as the person’s willingness to consistently behave in a specific manner in order to achieve a goal. A person’s motivation is triggered by the sense of getting pleasure or reward from the goal that is set.
People’s motivation can increase or decrease based on the properties stated above. When a goal is perceived as high-impact, valuable, attainable and immediate, a person’s motivation will be at its highest. In the same way, the motivation will be lowest if the properties of a goal are low-impact, not valuable, not attainable and delayed.
It is important to note that these properties are not dualities; rather, they work in a continuum. It is also not possible to have a goal that has all of the properties at one end of the scale at all times.
A person can set a number of goals of varying properties. This is when one’s motivation is subject to other psychological factors. One can stay motivated even if the goal is low-impact, as long as it is high-value and immediate. When goals are of varying properties, people will have to depend on other things to make sure that their motivation doesn’t decrease or reach its saturation point.
How to Use Psychology in Maintaining Motivation
People can go from highly-motivated to complacent in just a few minutes, depending on their psychological state. You can keep yourself motivated by taking note of important psychological concepts and applying them:
1. Work on your perception
As you may have noticed, all of the properties of goals depend on your perception of it. You can motivate yourself better by changing your perception of your goals. List your goals down in your journal and rate how each goal fares for each property mentioned above (use a scale of 1-10).
Any goal that has an average rate of 6 and below needs some work. You can change your perception of your goal’s impact by evaluating which aspects of your life can directly benefit from it. For value, examine how much the goal will make you a better person. The following steps will show how your can change your perception of your goal’s attainability and immediacy/delay.
2. Break down goals that scored low in attainability
You may see a goal as unattainable if it is too complicated. You can break down these goals into smaller goals and rate the attainability again. You can continue doing this until your rating reaches at least 8.
3. Set short-term and long term goals
For immediacy/delay, you can set short-term and long term goals. For example, saving $7000 may score low in immediacy because you did not define a timeline. What you can do is break it down into shorter goals that can be achieved immediately ($700/month> $175/week>$25/day).
4. Find models
It has been proven multiple times in psychology: people follow the behavior of their ‘idols’. People tend to copy people that they admire not just in their appearance and preferences, but also in their behaviors.
Find a model who has the same goals and find out what your model does to achieve his or her goal. You do not need to copy the exact thing they do, just merely knowing that they are working on their goals is enough to boost your motivation.
5. Specify your goals
If you have goals that scored an average of 6 and below even after doing the steps above, you need to re-evaluate that goal. By specifying the goal, you need to lay out an exact plan on how it can be achieved. Break it down until you find that it is already attainable and immediate.
The Psychology of Confidence
Unlike procrastination and motivation, a person’s confidence does not only depend on pleasure and reward. It is an aspect of personal psychology that is closely linked to social comparison. Stress and anxiety are the emotions that affect a person’s level of confidence.
Confidence is both an instinctive response and a high-level thought process. As an instinctive response, confidence defines a person’s level of certainty in the outcome of his or her behavior. As a high-level response, confidence is defined as a person’s willingness to start an action. Here I focuses on the latter definition, as this is what most people are struggling with.
The brain processes confidence quite differently from procrastination and motivation. It can be said that people are inherently confident, but they lose some confidence whenever they expect errors, think of their past experiences, and think of the society they are in.
When people start losing confidence, their stress levels increase, because the brain will trigger the release of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone for stress response. It is what makes people fight or run away from stressful situations. Because of higher than normal cortisol levels, people who lost their confidence will either act in defense of their behavior or avoid doing it.
Stress and anxiety are powerful forces that can dramatically diminish a person’s confidence because they illicit fear – an emotion that all beings on the planet cannot bear to have. If you would like to maintain your level of confidence or increase it, you have to learn how to manage stress and anxiety. Here are some bits of information about these emotions.
Stress – It is a psychological and physical state of being that people go through whenever they perceive anything threatening. The brain and body work together to make a person fight or flee in stressful situations. When one chooses to ‘fight’ in stressful situations, one’s confidence spikes up. The opposite happens when one chooses the ‘flee’ the situation.
Anxiety – Social anxiety (1) is what affects confidence the most. It is a combination of error expectation and social comparison. When one expects committing mistakes, one’s brain will try to plan the execution of the behavior again as one does it. This results to hesitation and doubt. The negative feeling worsens when one thinks of how other people will react to the behavior.
There are many behaviors that one can do to reduce the feeling of stress and anxiety naturally.
How to Use Psychology in Boosting Confidence
Because you are inherently confident, there are two things that you can do. First, you can ensure that your current level of confidence does not go down because of stress and anxiety. Second, you can work to increase your current level of confidence. Here are some tips that psychologists advise to people who have confidence issues:
1. Relieve your stress a few minutes before you do your desired behavior
Stress causes tension build up in your mind and body. If stress is not relieved immediately, it can lead to more serious physical illnesses or mental breakdown. If you are feeling stressed out before a speech, an interview, or a performance, release it by doing any of the following:
- Physical activity like jogging, jumping, or punching the air
- Relaxing exercises like deep breathing or meditation
- Striking ‘power poses’ like keeping your stance open and both your hands stretched out above your head.
The activities mentioned above lower your cortisol levels and increase testosterone. Testosterone is the hormone responsible for feeling brave and confident. Try doing any of those activities at least two minutes before doing what you have to do.
2. You can reduce the feeling of anxiety by having at least two backup plans
Anxiety is born out of your uncertainty of what to do in case you commit mistakes. You can significantly reduce the feeling of anxiety by knowing that you have alternative plans in case things do not go according to your expectations.
3. Have a realistic dry run
Practice will not only boost your confidence level, it will also give you a realistic view of what to expect. Make your rehearsals as realistic as you can so you can get in the mood. You can prevent unexpected anxiety attacks by exposing yourself to the situation as often as you can.
4. Tap into your social support system
Reduce social anxiety by hearing out empowering words from other people. If you need to perform in front of an unfamiliar audience, make a few calls to your friends and family to hear them say that you can do it. Doing this will diminish the negative social comparison that you might feel towards the people you do not know.
You can also increase your confidence level by overcoming your aversion to unfamiliar things. Condition yourself to like unknown situations by engaging in activities that contain elements of surprise and excitement (sports, adventures, competitions, etc.).
The Psychology of Relationships
Relationships are integral to an individual’s sense of well-being. In fact, people give more importance to their relationships with other people than their relationships with themselves. The quality of one’s relationships determines the overall quality of one’s life.
Conflict arises in relationships when the difference in personalities and preferences stand out. One will tend to like people who have the same interests and behaviors and avoid those who have qualities that do not match with one’s self. People see other people’s qualities in a continuum, which means they will accept certain levels, tolerate some, and avoid some.
For example, if you score 9 in the 1-10 scale of assertive personality, you will like people who are in the same level as you are, admire (or be jealous of) those who are above you, and tolerate some of those who are below you.
You will likely set a threshold of tolerance for yourself, that is, a point where you will stop tolerating that personality in a person. If you set 5 as your threshold, then it means that you will avoid people who scored 5 and below in the level of assertiveness.
The example about is, of course, figurative. People can set their continuum in a bigger scale. People also consider the other qualities of a person before avoiding/hating them. If one has a quality that is the same, it usually outweighs the differences. This is when people compromise and look past the differences in personalities.
Interestingly, when people share the same goal, they tend to put their personality differences behind. This can be seen in teams, and larger organizations. People can work together harmoniously without focusing on their differences.
However, as people spend time together and start knowing about their personalities, the differences can surface and can then lead to conflict. In other words, personality differences do not stand out in goal-oriented relationships, while it does in close relationships.
This means that in order to have harmonious relationships with people, you have to determine whether or not you share a close or goal-oriented relationship with them. You can use the following definitions as a rule of thumb:
Close relationships – This is what you share with people that you always spend time with: romantic partner, family and friends. You have the opportunity to see how they behave in many different situations; that is why you know their personality.
You do not necessarily share the same goal with them, but you share intimacy. Conflict arises when many of their qualities fall below your threshold and you find it hard to tolerate them.
Goal-oriented relationships – This is what you share with people with whom you only spend time with when you have to work towards a common goal (colleagues, classmates, etc). When you start spending more time with them and get to know their personalities, they are slowly moving towards the ‘close relationship’ zone.
Conflict arises in goal-oriented relationships when one party does not move towards the achievement of the goal.
How to Use Psychology in Strengthening Relationships
You cannot really have a perfect relationship. That is impossible because relationships are affected not only by people’s personalities, but also by multiple factors in the environment. Your goal is not to have a flawless relationship, but to have a harmonious relationship despite the flaws. Here are some of the psychological concepts that you can apply in strengthening your relationships:
1. Understand their emotions, behaviors, and thoughts
Just like you have learned, you can understand a person better if you know what triggered their emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. It would not do for you to assume; you have to know it by asking them. This means that you have to open your line of communication with those people.
2. To overcome jealousy, get to the root of it
Jealousy does not exist on its own. It is rooted from insecurity, anxiety, and fear. If you or a person who is close to you is feeling jealous, find out the root cause of it and start from there. There is no such thing as a ‘jealous personality’ (2); it always depends on how people feel about themselves in particular situations.
3. Be aware of your defense mechanisms
Whenever you feel like you are using one of your defense mechanisms, stop talking and write it down. Reverse psychology, rationalization, projection, etc. can harm your relationship because it centers on yourself. Remember that in a relationship, the other person is as important as you are. Learn to see things objectively before making any decisions.
Always remember that relationships should help you become a better person. Whenever you feel too sad about a relationship, spend time reflecting on it so you can see exactly where the problem comes from. Do not make any decisions without considering the other person involved.
Keep in mind the basic concepts of emotion, action, and thoughts and how everything that you and the people around you do is governed by those three. Remember the role of pleasure and reward in battling procrastination and improving your motivation.
Boost your confidence by making sure that stress and anxiety do not get the better off you. Lastly, strengthen your relationships by understanding other people, overcoming jealousy, and resolving conflict.
Be your own counselor and start living a better life.