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How to Change the Song in Your Head

You've been singing the theme to The Love Boat for hours now, and it's making you nuts.

If a song is on an unfinished loop, "sing it through all the way, or listen to the entire song, to achieve completion," says James Kellaris, Ph.D., a professor of marketing at the University of Cincinnati, who studies why catchy tunes - called "earworms" - stick in your head. "If you can't remember all the words or how it ends, rewrite the ending. Sometimes appending a Beethoven coda or even just 'Shave and a haircut, two bits' will do the trick." If you can’t banish it, replace it. That works for Ron Dante, one of the lead voices behind the insanely catchy Coke jingle "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." "I substitute a Beatles song, like 'Help!' or 'Let It Be' - both of which say something about what we need at that moment," he says. If the eraser tune gets lodged in your brain, too, he adds, "listen either to complex music, like Mozart, or unfamiliar music that lacks a hook, like New Age."

How to Change Your Cell Phone Carrier

Yes, it's now possible to change cell-phone carriers without changing your number, but don't expect radical improvements. All five major American cellular companies offer similar rates and deals, says James Hood, president of ConsumerAffairs.com, which covers consumer fraud. Where they vary is in their coverage in certain areas. "Seek out people who get good service and ask what company they're using," Hood suggests. Before switching, make sure your existing contract is up or you'll be hit with an early-termination fee, which may be as much as a couple of hundred dollars, says Jennifer Walsh, a spokesperson for Sprint. For a smooth transition, don't cancel your old account before your new one is activated. "Once you close it," Walsh warns, "your number goes back into a pool, and you can lose it." And don't trust the new company to cancel your old account for you. "Often," Hood says, "they say they'll take care of it, and they just don't." 

How to Change Your Room Layout

If you want a new outlook, move some furniture. The first step is to create a new focal point, says interior designer Ron Renner, founder of Certified Interior Decorators International. Consider an armoire or a fireplace, and arrange chairs and side tables around it. Renner isn't a fan of rakish angles. "Putting couches on the diagonal wastes space," he says. When placing furniture, Natasha Younts, CEO of the Designer Society of America, follows the "three-feet rule": "If you want to put a drink down on a coffee table, you shouldn't have to reach more than three feet from the couch," she says. "And a pass-through area should be at least three feet wide." After you change a layout, observe how people use it. "We all flow toward the space that looks easiest and most appealing," Younts says. "If guests aren't entering the living room, maybe the couch is a barrier. If they're not using the path you created through the room, expand it to help direct them."

How to Change Your Sleep Schedule

If you're going to eat a balanced breakfast, go running, and save the world by 10 a.m., you really should wake up earlier. But don't try to change overnight. "Go to bed five minutes earlier each night and wake up five minutes earlier every day" until you reach your goal, says Timothy Monk, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School who is leading a NASA study to find the best way of shifting astronauts' sleep schedules. If you're changing time zones, "mitigate jet lag before you travel," says Margaret Rappaport, a sleep-training specialist. If you're flying from San Francisco (Pacific time) to Boston (Eastern time), "sleep on Central time in the days before the flight," she says. Once in Beantown, immediately adopt the local schedule. For a drastic change in routine - say, a switch to the graveyard shift - try to trick nature. "When you want to be awake, keep rooms bright," Monk says. "And minimize daylight exposure before sleep by wearing dark glasses outside and dimming lights inside."

How to Change Someone Else's Mind

The essential rule when trying to convert someone is: Don't - at least, not at first. "Just listen," says Dennis Ross, former Middle East envoy and author of The Missing Peace. "It shows respect and allows you to learn." This approach applies whether the subject is peace between the Israelis and Palestinians or that orange plaid sofa your husband wants to buy. After listening, show that you get it. "Tell your husband you understand he loves the couch because it's big enough for the whole family to watch movies from," says Catherine Cardinal, a psychologist and the author of A Cure for the Common Life. "If you're negative, he'll defend it more." Next, nudge the other person to see your side. "I used to ask the Israelis what the Palestinians might accept, and vice versa," Ross says, "to make them more sensitive to each other's thinking." Then gently, imperceptibly, introduce a new outcome. "Everyone needs an explanation to tell others," Ross says, "and it's best if the other person thinks he came up with it."

How to Change Your Career

Doing what you love is more practical than you think. If you're trying to find your calling, "the most important factors to look at are your natural talents and your personality," says Nicholas Lore, director of the Rockport Institute, a career-coaching firm in Rockville, Maryland. Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, suggests making two lists: one with your top five skills, the other with your five favorite fields. Show your list around zealously. "You'll typically get many job suggestions," Bolles says. For an intermediary shift, he says, "either change your title and keep the field, or keep your title and change the field." He cites an aspiring pilot with poor vision who ended up working for the airlines by making airplane seats. Anne Steiner, director of the Seattle office of the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation, which conducts aptitude tests, says to "volunteer or get a part-time job to learn from people in the industry you're interested in." Soon you'll be one of them.

(By Amy Spencer via Real Simple

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