I read an interesting article recently about the famous Walter Mischel, the quirky 84 year old psychologist behind the famous “Marshmallow Test.” Not familiar? It’s that test where they take a bunch of kids, sit them in front of a stale marshmallow and tell them that if they wait 15 minutes without eating it, they will get 2 cookies. If they decide to eat the marshmallow, they will only receive 1 cookie. Mr. Mischel continued to follow the habits of his patients throughout their lives, and deduced that those who appeared to have higher self-control from a young age were generally more successful, slimmer, and less susceptible to bad habits like drug and alcohol abuse.
My first thought was, well, at 5, I probably would have eaten that marshmallow, because I couldn’t really comprehend the long term benefits of not doing so. I imagine that then immediate gratification would seem much more appealing. Now, on the other hand, I would like to think I could wait. Can we train ourselves, and even our children, to exert this kind of self-control? Mischel thinks we can. He claims that by using methods of distraction, we can buy a few extra seconds of “thinking” time, and stop ourselves from acting impulsively.
This can apply to all areas of life- whether someone’s ticked you off and you'd like to tear them a new one, or you’re starving and the bread basket is the only thing sitting in front of you. Here are 5 “distraction methods” you can use on a daily basis, to train your brain to slow down and reflect rather than reacting impulsively.
1. Count backwards from Ten.
2. Turn the object in question into something undesirable.
4. Reverse or de-personalize the situation.
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Fake it until you become it. Studies show that little changes change your brain chemistry.
Try these 5 tricks regularly to improve your mood- permanently.