5 Hacks to Change Your Thinking

by Jana Aplin | May 8, 2017 | Psychology, Tips, Motivation | 1 Comment

The mind is a powerful, creative thing. If you don’t believe me, then ponder reality as you watch the thought-provoking movie Inception; or read a biography about the life of Steve Jobs; or observe the fascinating and unique architecture of Antoni Gaudi; or absorb yourself in the imaginary world of Harry Potter. People creatively use their minds to change our world, and your mind is not excluded!

Your thoughts can literally change the world - maybe just your own little corner, or perhaps the entire globe! Transform your inner monologue from boring and routine to complex and powerful. Change your thoughts and you’ll boost your relationships, work ethic, satisfaction, and joy.

But wait a minute, that sounds like a huge task: to literally transform the way I think? Yep, it’s not as simple as 2+2, but it’s also not as complex as [97146.517 x (5.723 + 0.937215)]2 either. One modification to your thoughts can inspire mega changes! But let’s begin with just one.

Change your think with one of these 5 awesome, but realistic, hacks.

#1 Change your thinking by taking a stroll.

Take a break. This sounds really tough, right? But you actually burn calories while you work and think, so your body needs to take a break. In one hour you can burn up to 34 calories typing, 374 calories driving, and 170 calories standing. During your little rest from work drink a glass of water, eat a small snack, and stretch out your back and neck. But most importantly, don’t forget to take a short stroll.

Although it might seem contradictory, taking a break and being physically active is beneficial to your brain. Typical “brain training” games, such as those on lumosity, include tasks like problem solving, puzzles, memorization, attention, and concentration. But according to researchers, those games don’t provide expansive benefits that transfer to other areas of life (although you may become a master of sudoku or solitaire!).

Studies show that aerobic exercise is the most effective way to enhance brain functioning, improve working memory, and fight cognitive decline related to age. Aerobic exercise simply means getting your heart rate up, so a short yet brisk walk will do the trick!

Change your thinking by taking a walk, because exercise boosts your brain’s functioning.

#2 Change your thinking by thinking critically.

We need to stop using technology for everything and use our noggins instead! Although I am super grateful for things like calculators, navigation devices, and search engines, they are doing a disservice to my brain! Instead of using a pen and paper for a basic math calculation (or my brain!), I rely on technology to find the solution for me. Instead of plotting a route on a map, or being aware of my surroundings, I type in my destination to google maps and obediently follow its orders. Rather than recall and share details about a fascinating museum I visited, I simply look up the museum information online.

All of these handy amenities are short-cuts that give our brain a break. But if you want to improve your thinking, then you actually need to think (duh!).

Research has discovered a little secret about the way people think. The worse you are at critical thinking, the more likely you are to have negative life events. But the inverse is also true: the better you are at critical thinking, the less likely you are to have negative life events.

Thankfully you can help your brain improve in this area through brain teasers! (Note: I know that Hack #1 said exercise is better than brain games, which is true. However, problem solving an in-depth yet realistic scenario is quite different than a sudoku puzzle. Challenge your brain with more difficult and applicable question rather than fun card or number games.)

Try these or these for something short and fun. Work your way through this long list of tricky questions. Or really challenge yourself with these tough puzzles! Grab a group of friends and head to your nearest escape room or host a murder mystery dinner party. It doesn’t take much to work out your brain!

Here’s an example of one of my favorites, written by Albert Einstein:

There are 5 houses in five different colours. In each house lives a person with a different nationality. These five owners drink a certain type of beverage, smoke a certain brand of cigar and keep a certain pet. No owners have the same pet, smoke the same brand of cigar or drink the same beverage. The question is: Who owns the fish?


The Brit lives in the red house

The Swede keeps dogs as pets

The Dane drinks tea

The green house is on the left of the white house

The green house's owner drinks coffee

The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds

The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill

The man living in the centre house drinks milk

The Norwegian lives in the first house

The man who smokes blends lives next to the one who keeps cats

The man who keeps horses lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill

The owner who smokes BlueMaster drinks beer

The German smokes Prince

The Norwegian lives next to the blue house

The man who smokes blend has a neighbour who drinks water


Change your thinking by putting down your cell phone and thinking critically.

You can do it - use your noggin to think critically and solve this riddle! Find the answer here.

#3 Change your thinking by reminding yourself that you don’t know it all.

There once was a professor who had the very important job of training the best and the brightest students through a Ph.D. program in science. His first task was to “unteach” his brilliant students. Why? Because they enter these upper level studies believing that they know everything. Which means they cannot learn new material until the recognize how little they actually know. When a student finally admitted, “I actually don’t know anything about X” - then they were truly ready to begin learning.

When you acknowledge that you don’t know it all, you are opening your thoughts to a whole new world of options. To change the way you think, start with humility. With this posture, you’ll have more possibilities to think outside of the box, integrate more teammates with their particular strengths, be able to expand your knowledge, and become a lifelong learner.

Change your thinking by humbly acknowledging that you don’t know everything.

#4 Change your thinking with positive self talk.

We all have a flow of inner-thoughts, a personal monologue that either runs in positive or negative cycles. Talking down to yourself, questioning your decisions, or loading your shoulders with stress and worry restricts your mind. It’s like squeezing your vision down to looking through the scope of a gun.

Modifying your thought patterns can dramatically change your world perspective, opinions, preferences, motivation, and work ethic. An easy way to transform your inner monologue is through positive self talk.

Recent studies have shown that shifting your thinking is one of the best ways to boost your mood. Build your self-confidence by reminiscing on your accomplishments. Acknowledge your self-worth by thinking of your family and friends who love you. Recognize your strengths by reminiscing on the ways you have helped others or performed well at work. Try meditating, listing your blessing, praying, envisioning your perfect day, or imagining what life will look like when you meet all of your major goals. And in a particularly difficult moment, be like the Little Engine That Could, “I think I can, I think I can.”

What’s the point of these fancy thoughts? They improve your mood and clear distractions out of your head, leaving more room for the flow of critical thinking, creativity, and imagination.

Change your thinking by thinking positive thoughts about yourself.

#5 Change your thinking by celebrating small victories.

When a baby is learning how to walk, parents celebrate each step in the process (no pun intended!). Treat yourself the way a parent treats their baby. When the baby pulls up: “Yay!” When the baby stands up without holding in: “Wow!” When the baby walks while holding your hand: “Good job!” When the baby takes their first independent step: “Hip-hip-hooray!” Cheer yourself on with mini-celebrations every time you achieve a goal.

But first you have to recognize each victory. Why not set 3 goals for each day, and celebrate when you finish each task. Don’t get overwhelmed - these can be simple things like

  • Drink at least 1 full glass of water at each meal today.
  • Take 5 minutes to stretch out my body during my lunch break.
  • Call my parents just to say hello.
  • Surprise a coworker or spouse with a cup coffee or cookie.
  • Read a book with my kids before bed.
  • Open the door for a stranger.
  • Write a “thank you” or “thinking of you” note/email.

Small victories lead to major wins. And little goals feel more achievable than looming ones. Every time that you set a mini goal and meet it, you are boosting your confidence, which increases your mood, which encourages you to meet the next goal.

Change your thinking by breaking your large tasks into smaller goals and celebrating each time that you meet (or exceed!) your goal.

Start Today!

If you want to experience positive changes in your life, start by implementing one of these 5 hacks today. Because changing your thoughts can literally change how you view and impact the world around you. In some ways, you could call these hacks a catalyst for a MindShift. And our goal at MindShift is to help you achieve your dreams. Dare to dream a bigger dream, and allow us to help you make those possibilities into a reality!