How Psychology Can Improve Your Life

How can psychology apply to your everyday life? Do you think that psychology is just for students, academics, and therapists? Then think again. Because psychology is both an applied and a theoretical subject, it can be utilized in a number of ways.

While research studies aren't exactly light reading material for the average person, the results of these experiments and studies can have significant applications in daily life. The following are some of the top ten practical uses for psychology in everyday life.


Get Motivated

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Whether your goal is to quit smoking, lose weight, or learn a new language, some lessons from psychology offer tips for getting motivated. To increase your motivational levels when approaching a task, utilize some of the following tips derived from research in cognitive and educational psychology:

  • Introduce new or novel elements to keep your interest high.
  • Vary the sequence to help stave off boredom.
  • Learn new things that build on your existing knowledge.
  • Set clear goals that are directly related to the task.
  • Reward yourself for a job well done.

Improve Your Leadership Skills

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It doesn’t matter if you’re an office manager or a volunteer at a local youth group, having good leadership skills will probably be essential at some point in your life. Not everyone is a born leader, but a few simple tips gleaned from psychological research can help you improve your leadership skills.

One of the most famous studies on this topic looked at three distinct leadership styles. Based on the findings of this study and subsequent research, practice some of the following when you are in a leadership position:

  • Offer clear guidance, but allow group members to voice opinions.
  • Talk about possible solutions to problems with members of the group.
  • Focus on stimulating ideas and be willing to reward creativity.

Become a Better Communicator

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Communication involves much more than how you speak or write. Research suggests that nonverbal signals make up a huge portion of our interpersonal communications. To communicate your message effectively, you need to learn how to express yourself nonverbally and to read the nonverbal cues of those around you.

A few key strategies include the following:

  • Use good eye contact.
  • Start noticing nonverbal signals in others.
  • Learn to use your tone of voice to reinforce your message.

Learn to Better Understand Others

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Much like nonverbal communication, your ability to understand your emotions and the emotions of those around you plays an important role in your relationships and professional life. The term emotional intelligence refers to your ability to understand both your own emotions as well as those of other people.

Your emotional intelligence quotient is a measure of this ability. According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, your EQ may actually be more important than your IQ.
What can you do to become more emotionally intelligent? Consider some of the following strategies:

  • Carefully assess your own emotional reactions.
  • Record your experience and emotions in a journal.
  • Try to see situations from the perspective of another person.

Make More Accurate Decisions

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Research in cognitive psychology has provided a wealth of information about decision making. By applying these strategies to your life, you can learn to make wiser choices. The next time you need to make a big decision, try using some of the following techniques:

  • Try using the “six thinking hats” approach by looking at the situation from multiple points of view, including rational, emotional, intuitive, creative, positive, and negative perspectives.
  • Consider the potential costs and benefits of a decision.
  • Employ a grid analysis technique that gives a score for how a particular decision will satisfy specific requirements you may have.

Improve Your Memory

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Have you ever wondered why you can remember the exact details of childhood events yet forget the name of the new client you met yesterday? Research on how we form new memories as well as how and why we forget has led to a number of findings that can be applied directly in your daily life.

What are some ways you can increase your memory power?

  • Focus on the information.
  • Rehearse what you have learned.
  • Eliminate distractions.

Make Wiser Financial Decisions

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Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky conducted a series of studies that looked at how people manage uncertainty and risk when making decisions. Subsequent research in this area known as behavior economics has yielded some key findings that you can use to make wiser money management choices.

One study found that workers could more than triple their savings by utilizing some of the following strategies:

  • Don’t procrastinate. Start investing in savings now.
  • Commit in advance to devote portions of your future earnings to your retirement savings.
  • Try to be aware of personal biases that may lead to poor money choices.

Get Better Grades

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The next time you're tempted to complain about pop quizzes, midterms, or final exams, consider that research has demonstrated that taking tests actually helps you better remember what you've learned, even if it wasn't covered on the test.

Another study found that repeated test-taking may be a better memory aid than studying. Students who were tested repeatedly were able to recall 61 percent of the material while those in the study group recalled only 40 percent. How can you apply these findings to your own life? When trying to learn new information, self-test frequently in order to cement what you have learned into your memory.


Become More Productive

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Sometimes it seems like there are thousands of books, blogs, and magazine articles telling us how to get more done in a day, but how much of this advice is founded on actual research? For example, think about the number of times have you heard that multitasking can help you become more productive. In reality, research has found that trying to perform more than one task at the same time seriously impairs speed, accuracy, and productivity.

So what lessons from psychology can you use to increase your productivity? Consider some of the following:

  • Avoid multitasking when working on complex or dangerous tasks.
  • Focus on the task at hand.
  • Eliminate distractions.

Be Healthier

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Psychology can also be a useful tool for improving your overall health. From ways to encourage exercise and better nutrition to new treatments for depression, the field of health psychology offers a wealth of beneficial strategies that can help you to be healthier and happier.

Some examples that you can apply directly to your own life:

  • Studies have shown that both sunlight and artificial light can reduce the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
  • Research has demonstrated that exercise can contribute to greater psychological well-being.
  • Studies have found that helping people understand the risks of unhealthy behaviors can lead to healthier choices.
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Article Sources
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  • Chan, J.C., McDermott, K.B., & Roediger, H.L. (2007). Retrieval-induced facilitation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 135(4), 553-571.
  • Ophir, E, Nass, C, & Wagner, AD. Cognitive control in media multitaskers. PNAS. 2009;106(37):15583–15587, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0903620106