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Ask Yourself These 6 Questions To Help Clear Your Struggles.

Ask Yourself These 6 Questions To Help Clear Your Struggles.

I don’t care who you are, there are moments in life where you just feel stuck; as though you were never moving in the first place. Those moments can seem to swallow your life and you often find yourself spinning the wheels in your mind trying to get out of that place, only to find yourself digging deeper into the mental mud of misery.

The best thing to do when you are feeling unhealthy, stuck and miserable is to take a moment to ask yourself some honest questions that will help you move forward and get you out of your rut. Here are 6 that should get you moving on the right path:

1.Are you making excuses?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself. Yeah. It is a hard question that can really sting, but if you are serious about getting unstuck in life you have to be brutally honest with yourself right now. You need to let go of the blame and the excuses and realize that your life is your life. You are in control of this and it is your responsibility. No one else is going to live it for you and if it is not what you want, no one else is going to improve it for you. I am not saying that you cannot or should not seek out help or lean on others when you get into a serious funk.

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What I am saying is that you can’t just wallow in your own misery, complaining about how you got a bad lot in life, and how everything is terrible but none of it is your fault. Sure, things outside of our control happen. Maybe it is even true that the reason you are stuck is not entirely your fault, but life’s crap storms happen to everyone. You need to learn how to accept that fact, realize that other people have it a million times worse, and that all change starts inside yourself with a healthy dose of personal responsibility. So drop the excuses, drop the “woe is me” mentality and accept that life is sometimes difficult and full of peaks and chasms, but there is no use feeling sorry for yourself because you hit a trench in your life.

2.How do you talk to yourself?

As you might be able to tell from, my inner voice is usually very demanding. He is like a drill sergeant that does not let me get away with anything, nor does he let me make excuses or feel sorry for myself. There is this notion in personal development that you should always be soft and kind and considerate with yourself. I don’t agree with this. I think that SOMETIMES you should be those things, because we all need a caring voice to comfort us when times are most difficult, but the people who accomplish the most, the people who are healthy, unstuck and moving forward in their lives, are typically motivated by an inner voice that throws some tough love at them most of the time.

You don’t want to go to the gym? Too bad! You are never going to drop those extra pounds by sitting there and binge watching Netflix! You don’t think you have time to make a healthy meal? That is a bunch of BS! Now get in that kitchen and throw together a salad and do it now! Sometimes you have to put yourself in your place and talking to yourself with a firm, disciplined determination is often how you can get unstuck. Just remember there is a fine line between being firm and being mean. Don’t beat yourself. Give yourself the internal motivation to do what you know you need to do to make things better. Accept no excuses and be relentless!

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3.What matters to you?

You need to seriously decide what is important to you in life and act in a way that shows that those things matter, because if those things are truly important, cherishing them and acting in a way that shows their meaning to you is going to make you feel amazing. We all say that friends and family and health and money and whatever are important, but do we always act in a way that highlights their importance? You say you value health, but do you eat healthy? Do you exercise? You say you value family, but do you tell them how much you appreciate them? Do you go out of your way to help them? You can say how much you value things, but if you act in a way contrary to that your mind, and the world, is not going to buy it.

You can say you want to be healthy and that you value your body, but if you are out there eating fast food and not exercising, then I am sorry, you don’t value your health and the guilt and shame you feel because you are acting contrary to what matters to you is going to make you miserable. So decide what matters to you and act in a way that shows that it matters.

4.Who do you want to be right now?

The question about who you are right now doesn’t matter. What matters is asking yourself who you want to be right now. Right now you are unhealthy, stuck and miserable, but who cares? That is obviously not who you want to be, so quit asking yourself who you are right now and starting asking yourself who you want to be right now. The truth is, we create ourselves in every moment. We choose activities that support or erode our self worth and confidence every moment. What you need to do is find someone or something that actively embodies the things that matter to you and choose to be that way until you don’t have a choice.

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You eventually just do it naturally and then that becomes who you are. You want to be happy right now? Then act like you are happy. Watch happy videos. Recall happy moments. Copy happy people. It sounds like new age, personal development crap, but it works. Every time I do it, it never fails me. The brain is easily fooled and I can almost guarantee that you will be happy and your happiness will be as natural as if it were always a part of you.

5.What small things can you change?

Often, when we are feeling stuck and miserable, we think we have to make some epic shifts in our life. Sometimes that is true, and I will discuss that in the last question, but usually great change in life comes from minor, incremental shifts that snowball into enormous, monumental movements.

The key here is to identify the little things you can do to improve the quality of your life right now. Meditate for 5 minutes a day. Eat 100 less calories per day. Take the stairs, instead of the elevator. Write a thank you card to a friend or family member. You get the point. It’s up to you to identify these small changes, but if you make a few of them, and build off of them, you will notice an increase in the small moments of comfort in your life and you will want to add more and more until those small changes add up to big results.

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6.What big thing can you change right now?

While small changes are great and they will add up over time, if you want a quick fix to get unstuck and feeling less miserable immediately, make a big change. The key here is to not make a bunch of big changes as that is often a surefire recipe for failure. So just choose one, realistic, big change you can make and jump in head first. You have to commit to it and just go for it. It will be hard, but you will get an instant burst of confidence and satisfaction that you are doing something to change your life for the better.

I cannot say what a big change is for you, but I can say it should be something realistic, doable and something that truly aligns with the things above that you value from question 3. Take a sudden trip to see a distant relative that you haven’t seen in a long time. Enroll in a night class at a local university. Throw away every bit of junk food in your house. It should be big enough to where it scares you a little, but not so big that you can’t start it right away. The instant gratification of moving towards this big change will result in a sudden shift of your mental state and get you instantly unstuck.

What you need to remember is that these questions can be asked anytime you feel like you are in a rut in your life. Even if you are not stuck, you can use these questions to keep your life moving forward and avoid those seemingly inevitable moments of feeling lost, unmotivated, and miserable. But also remember this, you can ask these questions all you want, but if you don’t do anything with the answers, nothing is going to change. The key to getting unstuck is to be committed and active in pushing yourself out. These questions are fuel, but the heavy lifting is all on you!

Featured photo credit: Victor Cristian Mitroi via Flickr 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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