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10 Habits That Make You Smarter Day By Day

10 Habits That Make You Smarter Day By Day

Growing up, I had a coach who would always say, “Today is a great day to excel.” It’s something that’s stuck with me throughout my life: the knowledge that every day you’re given a chance to improve on the person you were the day before.

It’s also a great reminder that you’ll never get this exact moment back, so you should use every second to your advantage. Knowing this, it’s important to practice mindfulness every day, and to get into the habit of continuously improving your life in some way or another.

You can make the most of each day by:

1. Asking questions and following up on them

As kids, we harbor a natural curiosity about the world around us. We probably drove our parents nuts asking so many questions, but it was because we genuinely had to know why the sky is blue, or why dogs bark and cats meow. As we grow older, we get busy living life and, unfortunately, lose interest in discovering information about our world.

We should keep our imagination alive by actively asking questions and seeking out the answers on a daily basis. Keep a journal throughout the day of ideas that pop into your head that you don’t have time to think about at work.

Instead of lazing around on the couch for an hour when you get home, use this time to find the answers to the questions you had throughout the day. Even if the knowledge you gain isn’t directly applicable to your job, digging deeper into a seemingly minuscule interest could lead to the discovery of a life-long hobby.

2. Reading something new

Because of smartphones, we literally have the ability to read every piece of literature that has ever been penned by man in the palm of our hands. Don’t spend all day scrolling through Facebook for cat pictures.

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Check out apps like Flipboard and Longform, which collect stories from around the globe that you can tailor to your interests. Don’t just read the same old news sites. Instead, read an opinion article that directly jibes with your own perspective.

Reading an article you disagree with can potentially expand your mind, and help you come to a realization that changes your life. Even spending time reading for pleasure will keep your mind active and moving forward.

3. Sharing new knowledge

Learning something new is important, but sharing that knowledge makes what you’ve learned actionable and meaningful. Just like we have the ability to take in knowledge easily through the use of smart phones and the Internet, we also have the ability to share this information with our friends, family, and even complete strangers around the globe.

Use your Facebook page to share the interesting story you just read, or use an interesting photo gallery as a springboard to a fictional piece of literature. If you find something that interests you, share it with the world.

You might end up establishing new connections that could last a lifetime.

4. Applying new knowledge

There really is no point in learning something if it doesn’t inspire you to improve. Think of reading an advice column: If you don’t actually take the advice, you really just wasted the time it took to read the article in the first place.

If you take the time to learn something, you should take the extra step to learn how to use that information. If you play guitar and read an article about music theory, pick up your guitar and put your new-found knowledge into practice.

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You never know when you’re headed toward a breakthrough unless you take action to get there. Before you set out to read or learn to do something, ask yourself: How will I use this new knowledge?

Once you have a goal for learning, you’ll be much more motivated to learn in the first place.

5. Seeking out interesting people

Social media sites like Twitter have made communicating with interesting people incredibly easy. If you’ve ever spent time watching videos on TED, you know there are people out there who have incredible ideas and visions for our world.

These people are, well, people just like you. Reach out to the people who have inspired you.

They might be busy and may or may not respond, but if they do it could lead to a mind-expanding dialogue with limitless possibilities.

6. Doing something that scares you

When I started writing for all the Internet to see a few months ago, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be good enough, or my ideas would come off as pedantic and idiotic. After penning about 40 articles for Lifehack, I’ve become absolutely overwhelmed by the positive responses many of them have received.

If you’ve just learned a new song on guitar, play it for a group of friends. Then play it for a group of your peers. Then play it in front of a crowd. As you push the boundaries of your comfort zone, you’ll find it expanding each time you stretch it.

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Learn to be okay with being nervous and afraid; if everything was easy to do, nothing would be worth the effort.

7. Eating healthy

In school, our teachers would always advise us to eat well the night before and morning of a big test. They wanted to make sure you were fresh and had the stamina needed to work for hours on end without a break.

Starting your day with a healthy breakfast will keep you energized and willing to go the extra mile in everything you do. If you feel like garbage, you’re not going to want to push yourself to excel.

To keep things interesting, you can always find healthy eating recipes on Pinterest. Make sure your diet is full of fruits, vegetables and various proteins so you can hit the ground running each and every day.

8. Playing games instead of watching TV

Doing crossword puzzles, playing video games, or even watching Jeopardy is much more beneficial than vegging out and watching reruns of your favorite sitcom. Your mind should always be working, even during leisure activities.

Working on puzzles or playing games increases your logical thought and problem solving processes, which can positively affect all other aspects of your life.

Even time honored games like Tetris prove to be both fun and beneficial to your brain. And, even though your brain is working throughout these activities, you’ll be relieving the stress that your mind accumulated throughout the workday.

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9. Exercising

Along with eating healthy, keeping your body healthy is of utmost importance if you want to improve your overall well-being. Again, you won’t really be apt to push yourself mentally if your body is physically sore.

Take the time to get up and move, even if you only have a short period of time each day to do it in. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park at the end of the parking lot at work.

As with everything else, you need to make every second of your day count in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

10. Setting aside quiet time

Your brain, and your body, need time to recharge every day. Of course, you should aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, but in addition to that, you should spend some time to yourself, with no external stimuli around to bother you.

Take 10 minutes before bed or after waking up to meditate and let your mind relax. Try not to think of any of the stressful situations in your life, and just be.

And you don’t have to be a seasoned meditation expert, either. Psychology Today makes it clear that meditation really is for everyone.

Doing this before bed will make falling asleep much easier, and doing it in the morning will allow you to face the day without anxiety. And, if you can get some quiet time in during your lunch break, you’ll be energized and ready to work when everyone else has hit the two o’clock slump.

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm5.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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