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10 Simple Hacks To Stay Positive When Your Situation Looks Bad

10 Simple Hacks To Stay Positive When Your Situation Looks Bad

You just got dumped. Your company is going through a merge and it looks like you will be lose your job. Your mortgage payment is due tomorrow but you don’t have the money. You just got diagnosed with diabetes, or cancer, or heart disease. Sometimes when life gets tough, it’s hard to feel optimistic. Being positive is like flexing a muscle; the more you work it out the easier it gets. Here are a few quick hacks that can actually change the way your brain deals with negative situations.

1. Step Back And Assess Your Situation

Put distance between you and  positivity zappers like fear and anger. Try to look at your situation without emotion attached. In order to stay positive you need clarity. Just like sitting in the front row at the movies can make it hard to see the whole screen, when you are too close to the situation it can be a challenge to see it clearly. Describe your sitaution devoid of emotion in the simplest terms. For example, if you have lost your job you can get caught up in the emotion of feeling wronged or inadeqaute. Your worry can take over and lead you to imagine the worse case scenario like losing your home and your family. Before you let this downward spiral begin make a simple assessment. “I have lost my job. I need a plan to find a new job.”

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2. Remember Everything Can Be a Miraculous Opportunity

Everything can be an opportunity. When I speak to people who have cancer, it is amazing the number of stories where people, in hindsight, are grateful for their illness and even their losses. We do the most personal growth and change when we have had to dig deep. Recognizing this can release some of that fight-or-flight reaction. Remind yourself that people overcome negative things to be better versions of themselves. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, recognize that although you wouldn’t invite or celebrate what you are dealing with, you can accept it and move on.

3. Move Your Body, It Calms Your Mind

Exercise releases chemicals that calm and heal. It also provides a momentary escape from your thoughts. When you choose an activity like Zumba or tennis that requires focus and concentration, you give yourself a little time-out from thinking about your situation. When you finish whatever exercise you have chosen, your body will have released some calming chemicals and your mind will be refreshed. This can feel like coming at your problem from a new perspective.

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4. Wait and Breathe

When our body starts its fight-or-flight reaction the natural chemicals that are released impede our ability to make good decisions. Taking time to breathe deeply or to meditate couteracts the stress process that your body has started and enables you to use better judgement on how to proceed. This is one time when less is not more. Take as much time as you need to calm yourself before your begin planning or decision making.

5. Be Self-Compassionate

In a class I was recently teaching, I asked the participants to rate their compassion on a scale of one to ten. Most participants rated themselves as a seven or eight. But when I asked them to rate their self-compassion, many dipped down to a two or three. We truly can be our own harshest critic and worst enemy. Practice treating yourself the way you would a small child. Speak kindly to yourself. I like to imagine that everything I think about myself is immediately printed on my forehead. If I don’t want others to think I am forgetful, incompetent, or not enough then I cannot have these thoughts myself.

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6. Get Outside

David Suzuki recently studied the effects of spending 30 minutes outside everyday. Not surprisingly people were happier and less stressed out after they had spent time in nature. You don’t have to hike the Appalachians, just get on the roof and star gaze or feed the ducks in the park. The body relaxes and then releases chemicals that help lower blood pressure, heighten immunity and support emotional resilience.

7. Make a Plan

When the feeling of being overwhelmed hits, mapping out what your next steps are can be really useful. You cannot always solve the whole problem, but breaking what you need to do into manageable bites can stop the fight or flight reaction and allow you to take charge of your emotions.

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8. Create an Affirmation

An affirmation is a positive phrase that moves you towards what you want by behaving as though you already have it. Simple affirmations that you repeat to yourself in your head may be:

  • Right now, I am okay.
  • I am resilient
  • Things are getting better
  • I am stable during life’s ups and downs.

Or you can create a more specific and advanced one like:

  • I attract abundance and love
  • My awareness is anchored in tranquility.
  • I easily find a new job that I love.
  • I fully accept myself and know that I am worthy of great things in life.

9. Move Towards What You Want

Part of moving towards what you want is knowing what that is. For example if you are ending a relationship instead of thinking “I don’t want to be with someone who treats me badly” you might think “I deserve a partner who treats me with kindness and love”. The difference might seem subtle but moving toward something is always more concrete than escaping something. The universe loves specificity!

10. Find Moments of Gratitude

There is always something to be thankful for. Even life seems to be kicking you when you are down, there is always something to be thankful for. When my daughter was diagnosed with autism and I was feeling very sorry for myself, I met a mom who had a daughter the same age who had autism and leukemia. My child was not dealing with fighting for her life alongside her new diagnosis. Comparison isn’t always the thief of joy. Sometimes it can remind us of the good things we have. As you practice gratitude for these things, your brain strengthens its ability to find things to be grateful for and soon you will be seeing good all around you. A great way to get started is with a  joy journal where you make a daily list of 3 things you are thankful for. As you make a practice of acknowledging the good things in your life, you become more positive.

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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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