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Why Grateful People Live Longer And Lead A Happier Life

Why Grateful People Live Longer And Lead A Happier Life

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!

Featured photo credit: Depositphotos/Petarpaunchev via depositphotos.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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