Insights for Success from Neuroscience

For the seeker of enlightenment, there is nothing to fear and much to learn from the secrets of neuroscience.

Brain tricks — sometimes called hacks — are mental "shortcuts" designed to enhance life's success.

The richness of these truths can be documented through the research of neuroscience and its student desciple, embodied cognition.

What follows is a stack of reliable insights known to boost all areas of life: communication, personal relationships, business management, trauma coping skills, and more. Simple "mind" tricks to tackle the goals of self-esteem, success, and happiness...

Let's pursue them...
  1. Communication. Simple hack to boost communication: Listen more. It wouldn't hurt to be more empathetic, too. Sounds reasonable, but there's more: mimicking the speaker, in gestures or stance, enhances the mutual dialogue. The reason for this balancing act is that mirroring the other's actions stimulates particular brain neurons (which are called "mirror" neurons) in yourself — which enables you to better understand and appreciate the speaker. (Imitation is a lubricant to facilitate social cognition.)

  2. Personal relationships. Embodied cognition teaches us that the sensual dimension impacts the social dimension. Holding a warm mug, sitting on a soft chair, igniting the fireplace — all of these warm and touching factors foster friendship. The effect on participants is to embrace a mutual (subconscious) emotional resonance.

    Warmth has been found to be associated with kindness, social affiliation, and acceptance. The qualities of Softness, too. Both create an embodied effect on the emotions. The motor cortex leads the dance in partnership with the higher functions, located in the brain's prefrontal area.

  3. Business management. Start with exercise. Exercise seems to exert super influence on all of the topics listed here.

    That said, for business management, let's include posture. Leadership demands getting things done, setting an example, becoming a role model. Public image is important, along with the proper emphasis on guidance and support. Do not slump. Slumping decreases intelligence and focus.

    Here's a short list on the basics:

    • cross arms for persistence
    • lie down for insight
    • nap for performance
    • gesture for persuasion

  4. Trauma coping skills. Resilience, that's the name of the game. Perhaps the greatest defense against depression, heart break, and just plain pathos is physical exercise. A regular routine should be simple and moderate, but not too moderate. Nor too stressed, either. Find a Golden Mean. The practice of athletic motion boosts the mind's health, intelligence, and mood. Exercise slows down the onset of Alzheimer's, too.

    Treat yourself to rest. Sleep on a regular schedule for at least 7 hours each night. Prepare your sleeping pad to be dark and comfortable. Shut out noise and meditate. Drink warm milk or herbal tea. Sleep is a potent healer that repairs tired brain neurons, releases growth hormones, does internal bookkeeping, etc. etc.

  5. Self-esteem. Posture is king. All it takes is a minute, according to studies. Open up the arms and legs, stand (or sit) tall, expand the chest, dominate space. The self-esteem pose urges the motor cortex to speak to the inner mind, creating a sense of pride.

    Also: Deepen voice pitch. Believe it or not, lowering your voice strengthens the perception of yourself to others, and in yourself.

  6. Success. Think big. Think smart. Think outside the box. One lesson from goal-setting research is to start. That's right. Just start. Start anything, for God's sake! But start.

    Keep the plan realistic, but accept a challenge. Focus more on the process, and less on the outcome. (Find a mutual balance.) Another great hack: express future ideas in writing. Writing has been found to be a fulcrum in lessening fears, organizing details, and encouraging will power. Finally: increase aerobic fitness to enhance all things.

  7. Happiness. Gratitude comes first. Think of something to be grateful for. Practice the art at least once a day. Think of something different each time. Keep it fresh. It's a form of prayer that offers cognitive, well-researched benefits. The greater the number of grateful items you can think of, the better. The more unique the items, the better. In weeks you'll feel happier!

  8. Diet. Once again, posture counts. Those sitting in a constricted pose eat less than those adopting an expansive pose. If you must eat dessert, save it for last: refined carbs stimulate the appetite. Slow down, eat small bites. (It takes time for the brain to catch up and feel satisfied.) Also, sleep well. Proper sleep modifies poor eating habits.

  9. Brain health. Exercise, of course: mentioned earlier. Also, learn new skills. Engorge on knowledge to counter the mental decline of increasing age: tackle brain-teasers, read books, solve puzzles, volunteer, take classes, and socialize often. The emotional effects of great friendships keep the mind resilient.
Practice these lessons from neuroscience and embodied cognition! Practice them daily to succeed in success!


Zhong, C., & Leonardelli, G. (2008). Cold and Lonely: Does Social Exclusion Literally Feel Cold? Psychological Science, 19 (9), 838-842 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02165.x

Stel, M., Dijk, E., Smith, P., Dijk, W., & Djalal, F. (2011). Lowering the Pitch of Your Voice Makes You Feel More Powerful and Think More Abstractly Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3 (4), 497-502 DOI: 10.1177/1948550611427610

Allen, J., Gervais, S., & Smith, J. (2013). Sit Big to Eat Big: The Interaction of Body Posture and Body Concern on Restrained Eating Psychology of Women Quarterly, 37 (3), 325-336 DOI: 10.1177/0361684313476477

Snyder, Seth. (2011). How Your Coffee Mug Controls Your Feelings Johnny Holland

Dean, Jeremy. (2011). 10 Simple Postures That Boost Performance PsyBlog

Dean, Jeremy. (2011). 11 Goal Hacks: How to Achieve Anything PsyBlog

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John DiPrete is a Web designer with a passion for neuroscience, art, and business. His work has appeared in MacWorld, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Medical Hypotheses, Speculations in Science and Technology, among other outlets. His Web site ( has been recommended by PC World Online. Readers can subscribe to his free email updates at