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Why Grateful People Live Longer And Lead A Happier Life

Why Grateful People Live Longer And Lead A Happier Life
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Thank You! Thank You and Thank You!! We say it on a daily basis almost out of courtesy at times or to display our good mannerisms and at times when we truly feel thankful. A bigger version of this is played out on “Giving Thanks Day,” aka Thanksgiving, where we express how thankful we are for our family and other blessings in our life. When we are truly thankful and we feel it deep inside us, we are grateful. Grateful for our friends, family, our material goods, our health, and various other blessings in our lives. Feeling grateful forces our minds to adopt an abundance mindset as opposed to a scarcity based one, where you feel you are lacking something. An abundant mindset is key to our growth and well-being. Stephen Covey in his famous book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective people clearly explains the differences between a scarcity mindset and an abundant mindset. “It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody,” he said.

Gratitude has produced such miraculous results for people that scientists have been seriously studying the practice of gratefulness and its effect on physical and psychosocial benefits. Heartfelt gratitude not only makes us feel happy, but a host of other benefits. Let’s start with the obvious one.

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When you are grateful,

You’ll Feel Happy:

One study conducted by Robert Emmons at the University of Berkeley, California, divided participants into 3 groups and asked them to maintain a journal for 10 weeks. One group was asked to write a list of 10 things they were grateful for the past week. The second group was asked to list 10 minor annoyances in the past week and the third group was asked to write about 10 things that impacted their lives in the past week, with no further direction. At the end of 10 weeks, the first group folks were reported feeling 25% more happier than the other groups. Robert Emmons has written multiple books on happiness and gratitude. You can check them out here. Emmons book, ‘Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier ” is a must read! Sonya Lyobomirsky, professor in the Department of Psychology and University of California and author of “The How of Happiness’, describes gratitude as the meta strategy to achieve happiness. “Gratitude is many things to many people,” she says. “It is wonder; it is appreciation; it is looking on the bright side of a setback; it is fathoming abundance; it is thanking someone in your life; it is thanking God; it is ‘counting blessings.’ It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is coping; it is present-oriented.”

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Your Physical Vitality Improves:

Surprisingly or not so surprisingly, gratitude improves our physical health. How, you ask? Firstly, gratitude helps lower our stress levels. Its no secret that stress has been proven to be a major cause of heart attacks and other chronic conditions. Gratitude leads to a positive outlook and spurs an optimistic approach to life. Optimism in turn has been linked to increased immunity boosting cells. “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations,” Emmons told WebMD. A study conducted by California based Paul Mills, professor of family medicine at University of California, shows us that a “grateful heart is indeed a healthy heart”.

Your Personal Relationships Get Stronger:

Gratitude helps brings partners closer together. This appreciation is not only what a partner does for you in a relationship but also appreciating the partner for who he/she is. This fosters a sense of commitment towards each other and towards growing the relationship. Individuals are more thoughtful in their words and actions toward their partners thereby helping the intimacy grow. Feeling appreciated and valued by one’s partner makes a world of difference to the relationship and helps it get stronger. A study conducted by Allen Barton of the University of Georgia affirms this. “We found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last,” said study co-author Ted Futris.

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You’ll Be More Resilient:

Noticing and appreciating our blessings  regularly attunes us to notice the good in everything and everyone. This constant attention to seeing the good in every situation helps us bounce back stronger and quicker. Barbara Fredickson, author of Positivity and Love 2.0 attributes gratitude to be a key factor in building resilience. According to Fredrickson, “When adversity strikes, gratitude for the things that are going right in your life helps put tragedy in perspective”. Another tactic that she recommends is ‘un-adapting’. This involves consciously drawing attention to the things we take for granted in our lives, like a roof over our heads, a steady career, food and other things. Again, this cultivates that abundance mindset leading to stronger abilities to bounce back in adverse situations.

You’ll Sleep Better:

Count your blessings to sleep better! Gratitude promotes a feeling of trust and “all is well in my world”. This in turn helps you sleep better by reducing your stress and worry about day-to-day things. A study conducted measured the quality of quantity of sleep in its participants as a result of expressing gratitude. The study confirms the positive effect of gratitude on sleep. People slept longer, woke up less and felt more refreshed when partaking in a gratitude practice.

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Your Life Satisfaction Score Goes Up:

Studies conducted and summarized in the paper show a definitive uptick with one’s life satisfaction. Positive thoughts leading to thoughtful positive actions, increased physical vitality, stronger relationships, optimistic thoughts,  all together cause an overall increase in one’s sense of well-being.

Emmons rightfully said ” Don’t leave thanks at the thanksgiving table”. Gratitude is a muscle in us that needs to be built consciously. Maintain a gratitude practice that works for you and your schedule and stick to it daily. It does not have to be anything fancy. It can range from meditating 5 mins a day, to being mindful, keeping a gratitude journal, a gratitude jar, writing someone a thank you note, calling up someone and thanking them for who they are, reflecting on the things that we take for granted that are truly a blessing are some ways to incorporate gratitude in your daily life. There’s much to be said about the Power of Gratitude. So let’s say it, breathe it, live it and reap its benefits!

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Featured photo credit: Depositphotos/Petarpaunchev via depositphotos.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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