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8 Self Improvement Skills to Learn that Have Lifelong Benefits

8 Self Improvement Skills to Learn that Have Lifelong Benefits

Everyone gets to a certain point where they learn the same thing: Life is hard. There’s so much to learn, and, as you get older, so little time to do so. However, though there are endless bits of knowledge and and abilities that a person can learn throughout his life, there are many self improvement skills you can focus on to ensure that the rest come a bit more easily to you.

1. Time Management

In a time in which your phone is constantly beeping, your TV or radio is most likely on while working, and you have a million things to do before 5:00 rolls around, time management is of the utmost importance. There are a variety of ways to make your time work for you, rather than the other way around. When you make the most of your time, you have the benefit of being successful in balancing your work and your life with ease. Managing time now means freeing it up so you can do the things you truly enjoy. It’s more difficult than it sounds.  Make a to-do list the night before, and make sure you follow through with this list. If you set out to complete a task, don’t let any interruptions (other than major emergencies) stop you before you finish, or take a break at a predetermined time. Also, set time aside to do all the other things that would have interrupted you throughout the day; you’d be amazed to see how little time you waste checking your phone if you do it all at once rather than sporadically throughout the day.

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2. Empathy

Being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes is an incredibly important skill to master in your quest for self improvement. Doing so will benefit your life in a variety of ways. People will tend to flock to you if you show that you care, and that you always have a shoulder to lean on. Empathy is tough to learn, just look at the stereotype of today’s CEOs. They are known (fairly or unfairly) for being callous individuals who don’t care about other people’s problems which may spill into them having nothing in their personal lives to show for their professional success. On the other hand, empathetic and caring individuals who may not have the highest-paying jobs in the world make intangible connections with others throughout their life, which is a sense of wealth that transcends monetary gains. Learning how to show empathy comes with relating to the other person’s situation. When someone is talking to you, ask yourself, “How would I feel if this happened to me?”. Start from there and soon enough it will be second nature.

3. Mastering Sleep Patterns

Along with time management goes mastering sleep patterns. Many of us have uttered the phrase “there’s just not enough time in the day” at least once in our lives, and have felt overwhelmed by all the mandates of our busy life. But sleep is a basic need of survival. We can’t afford to discount it. High school students have to wake up at 6:00 to get to school by 7:00. College students spend all night studying (or partying), and have to get to a final by 9:00 the next day. Adults have commuting time to account for, and parents are up all night with their newborn babies. We simply don’t spend enough time at rest, and we suffer for it when the 2:00 slump hits us every single day. Maintaining a routine sleep pattern may be tough, but it’s absolutely imperative that we learn to do so in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and focus on complete  self improvement. Simple ways to employ good sleep habits include going to bed and waking up at the same time (even on weekends), unwinding before bed without the use of screens (cell phones, televisions, or even tablets), and not consuming caffeine within 6 hours of sleep.

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4. Positive Self-Talk

One of the most important skills a person can learn is to be nice to himself. It sounds easy, but for many people, it really is not. It’s much easier to beat yourself down than to hold yourself up. In a world in which many people only care about each other on a superficial level, it’s easy to get the feeling that “no one cares,” and let that feeling build up into other detrimental thoughts within your own mind. Just as we need to be kinder to our physical wellness by getting enough sleep, we also need to be kind to our emotional self as well. Taking the time to meditate on your positive traits and abilities may sound like a waste of time, but it can do wonders for your self-esteem throughout your lifetime. A great rule of thumb is to treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. Self improvement starts with treating yourself well.

5. Consistency

Most everyone experienced this phenomenon growing up: During the first week of school, you felt gung-ho about your studies, and knew “this was the year” you were going to do better. By the end of September, however, that feeling had passed, and as you fell into a routine, you came up short of your self improvement goals. Being consistent is hard. Putting in the same effort on a daily basis, Monday through Friday, for the entirety of your life is definitely an intimidating proposition. However, keeping consistent makes each day easier and easier, whether you realize it or not. Remember the last time you skipped leg day? How hard was it to come back to it the next week? They say it takes 21 days to make a habit so you will have to remain consistent until the habit has formed.

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6. Asking for help

There’s a ridiculous misconception in today’s professional world that everyone is supposed to know everything. It’s simply not possible. What we do need to be able to do is admit we don’t know something, and find the answer through a variety of means. Living in a world in which answers are at our fingertips means we are able to network with some of the most successful people in the world, and many of them will be willing to help out if we just take the time to reach out to them. Showing you have an interest in improving your skills and abilities can take you much further than pretending that you know everything. While it may be difficult to try for the first time, asking for help actually builds trust because it shows that you value the opinion of another person. Not only does asking for help make you a better employee, it also saves you a lot of time in the trial and error phase of business!

7. Knowing when to stay quiet

In a world where everyone can have a voice through social media, this one is a must. We all want our voices to be heard, but sometimes it’s just not the right time to open our mouths. When we’re upset, our instincts are to vent to anyone who will listen. However, those that are listening might be doing so for ulterior reasons which could end up digging a deeper hole for you than the one you were already in. Especially in a world in which everyone is trying to get ahead of their colleagues, you should never give others ammunition that will end up holding you back. A great way to know when to stay quiet is to take a moment to step back and ask yourself if you are being fair. Also, if you have to ask yourself you likely already know what you are saying is not going to contribute.

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8. Listening

This goes along with asking for help. Let go of the notion that you know everything. You never know when someone else will come up with a solution to a problem you’ve been having, and you don’t want to miss out on it because you blew them off for “not knowing what they’re talking about.” Advice and perspective can come from the most unlikely sources, so it’s important to keep an open mind (and ear) to everyone around you. Just remember — you have one mouth and two ears so use them in that proportion. This means listen twice as much as you speak.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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