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Live Life to the Fullest

Live Life to the Fullest

Life isn’t easy. Sometimes scars run deep. People we love die. Family, friends and coworkers say and do cruel things. Not everything we want to happen in life, does and often things we don’t want to happen, do. We all have our share of heartache; things that make us question who we are and what we want from life. Things that leave us stuck.

Yet some individuals muster the strength to push through. They’re able to rise above life’s challenges rather than sink. How?

The answer is RESILIENCE. These individuals have the ability to bounce back from setbacks to live happier, purpose filled lives. It’s something we all aspire to and often all we need is the right mindset. So here are ten ways to build resilience and live happier, fuller lives.

1. Develop a more positive attitude

This doesn’t mean ignoring the pain or denying the problem, it means choosing to be optimistic, choosing to look for the good in each and every situation. This is hard in the moment. We all need a good cry and plenty of time to grieve life’s disappointments, but don’t dwell there forever. Choose to see setbacks as isolated incidents. Choose to not beat yourself up—the world is not out to get us even though it often feels that way.

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Instead, think three positives for every negative. Choose to be with positive people who encourage and inspire you, who appreciate and understand the depths of your soul.

2. Embrace change

Don’t be afraid to mix things up: get a new haircut, redecorate a room in the house, try a new hobby, travel, learn a new language, visit a different museum or restaurant, switch out the same ‘ole Starbucks drink for a new one. The point is, live. Try new things. Allow yourself to be open and willing to new people, new ideas, and new adventures. The less resistant we are to change, the easier it becomes when something unexpected shatters our lives—and it will. Life is full of change. Expect it. Welcome it. Don’t let a fear of change numb all the good life has to offer.

3. Face problems head on

Denial leads to hopelessness whereas problem solving leads to solutions and helps us feel a sense of control. Take time to reflect and then brainstorm a list of solutions. Be creative. Find more than one. Ask others for help, preferably people who have been in the same situation or who know you well. Allow yourself to be practical and impractical before narrowing solutions down. Then Act.

Remember: it’s your choice to stay in a miserable situation. Don’t just pretend the problem isn’t there. Do something.

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And for problems that don’t seem to have a solution. Reflect. Pray. Meditate. There are some problems we cannot fix. Some things we cannot change. Some wounds that will not heal. Sometimes, all we need is time. And an ability to press on in spite of it all.

4. Forgive yourself

Shame kills joy. We all make mistakes. Rather than destroying your future with your past, give yourself grace. Who you were. What you’ve done. It’s history. Don’t let it rob you of your life. Don’t give it power. Ask for forgiveness and let it go. You deserve grace and compassion. Believe that. Believe you are worthy. Beating yourself up year after year doesn’t change the past nor does it heal you. Learn from your mistakes. Encourage others. Only then can you truly be free.

5. Pursue your dreams

Learn what excites you, what motivates you, and go after it. Set short and long term goals. Make a plan. Put it on the calendar. Stay focused. Following our dreams builds confidence and provides a sense of purpose. If you’re unsure what enlivens you, see a career counselor. Determine your interests and skills. What makes you smile? What makes you feel alive? Don’t sit around waiting for your dreams to find you. Work toward them. Take action. A step forward is always closer to your dreams than no step. And when roadblocks slow you down, which they will—fight. Work hard and don’t give up. Nothing worth having ever comes easy.

6. Seek support from someone you trust

Sometimes life is just too hard, far too messy to take on alone. We all need an extra shoulder to cry on, someone we can rely on, who will help us see through our fog.  We all need someone who understands us, who won’t judge us, who will help us succeed at life. Whether it’s a friend, family member, pastor, or therapist, find a person who’s been there, who can help you feel less alone. They’ll equip you with tools to achieve your goals and face adversity.

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7. Make yourself a priority

Exercise. Eat healthy. Dance. Take nature walks. Paint. Whatever lifts you out of the fog, do it. All these activities will help boost energy and self-esteem. Get a good night’s sleep. Enjoy a bubble bath. Get a massage. Read a favorite book. Whatever it may be, make it a priority.  If we expect to take on life’s challenges, we’ve got to build ourselves up, spoil ourselves, show ourselves some compassion. Taking care of oneself, nurturing one’s soul, will boost confidence and ready us for whatever challenges life brings.

8. Laugh often

Laughter really is the best medicine. When times get tough—laugh! It helps us gain perspective. Breaks us free from our prison of despair. Watch a funny show. Read a comic. Hang out with friends who make you laugh, who’ll help you not take yourself so seriously.

9. Show yourself love

Our perception of ourselves, positive or negative, determines our behavior. If we believe we are unworthy, we act that way. But who we are is not determined by others. It is determined by us, by our own inner thoughts. We alone destroy ourselves— from within. With lies we tell ourselves. With past pain and words that echo through our mind.

So be compassionate. Each morning, look in the mirror and give praise. Say three positive truths. Force yourself to do it even if it seems cheesy. The world is not always kind; if we depend on others for approval, we’ll be waiting a long time.

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10. Don’t compete with others

We run our own race. It’s that simple.

Look for self-improvements. Set new goals. Dwell on your accomplishments. If we’re always striving to beat So and So, we risk losing ourselves. Comparing our life to others never brings happiness or contentment. We’ll only feel more out of control. There will always be someone richer, prettier, smarter, more athletic, healthier, etc. so the only person we should compete with is our past self.

Life isn’t always going to go our way and that’s okay, it’s what makes life exciting. But If we love and take care of ourselves, if we pursue our dreams, if we laugh, and focus on the positives, and if we seek solutions–we will be resilient. Life can throw anything at us and we’ll be ready. We’ll rise, even if it’s an inch by inch crawl out of our pain to be happier, more complete, people than we ever were before.

Featured photo credit: Happiness is excitement/Nancy Kellan via flickr.com

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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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