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Want Lasting Change? Make Pain Your Friend

Want Lasting Change? Make Pain Your Friend

How many of us have changes in our lives we’d like to make? How many of us try again and again to change, but when the willpower runs out, we stop? How many of us tolerate the same conditions for years and then one day, BAM! Something flips and we change overnight.

One day while passing around some vacation pictures with my family, I saw a picture of myself and was shocked. I was fat! Now I’ve always had some junk in the trunk, but I must have put on 20 pounds in the 6 months since the pictures were taken! I hadn’t even noticed the weight I was putting on.

I hit a breaking point that day and decided I was going to change how I looked.

What drove me to change after seeing a picture of myself overweight? I knew that I was heavy before seeing the picture, but never felt compelled to change until then.

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What happened?

I had finally hit my emotional threshold. The emotional threshold is the amount of pain I was willing to endure before changing.

The forces of pain and pleasure impact every area of your life: from relationships, to finances, to how you feel about yourself and others. Everything you do is to either avoid pain or to gain pleasure.

Sure this sounds simple, but give it some thought. Why don’t you do the things you know you should do? You know the benefits of getting things done, but why do you continue to procrastinate?

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Because at some level you feel that taking action now would be more painful than continuing to put it off.

How many times have you procrastinated during tax season? You keep putting it off and putting it off until tomorrow is the deadline and BAM! You switch into high gear and get it done right away. What happened? Suddenly it was more painful to keep putting it off than to get it done.

When you first start a diet, it’s painful missing the foods you love. But as you build some momentum, a shift happens; the pain you associate with cheating on your diet and delaying progress outweighs the short blip of pleasure you’d gain from eating your old foods. The pain of cheating on your diet now becomes your friend.

Whether it’s the alcoholic that quits cold turkey after 20 years, or someone that finally leaves an abusive relationship, they’ve both reshaped their lives through altering their pain and pleasure associations related to a particular scenario. They’ve both made pain their friend.

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Skeptical? Picture a food or drink that was once a favorite of yours, but now you do everything to avoid. Could it be that you’ve sworn off of pickled pigs feet and Jägermeister because you now just prefer the finer things in life?

Or does night of projectile vomiting and the smell of vinegar haunting you for 3 days come to mind? See the connection?

Painful emotions are an extremely effective way to avoid unwanted behaviors. Once you make pain your friend, you can change your life in an instant.

You may be thinking “No one changes in one day…” Garbage! There’s more pain in staying the same than in changing. I made the decision that day to no longer settle with being overweight. I’m not saying I lost all the weight (100 lbs.) that day. But in my mind it was very simple; the emotional pain of living another day doing nothing about being overweight outweighed the pleasure of gummy worms and soda.

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Everything you strive for in life is a result of what you’ve associated pain and pleasure with. When you’re able to leverage pain and pleasure in your favor, you’ll be able to create lasting change in your life that isn’t dependent upon the surge of willpower we usually experience when starting a new goal.

What’s preventing you from living life exactly how you imagined it? What changes do you need to make, but can’t follow through on? What keeps you from going on that diet, or starting that business? What if instead of focusing on your behavior, you focused on what’s motivating you? What if you were able to link more pain to not pursuing your dreams than with the security and familiarity of your 9-5?

Featured photo credit: Suz via flickr.com

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Bob Dempsey

Psychology Major

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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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