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3 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Forget Our Unhappiness

3 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Forget Our Unhappiness

It is tempting to want to avoid all pain and discomfort. In fact, it is part of the human experience, even evolutionarily advantageous, to recognize and avoid pain. But simply trying to forget unhappiness or brush it under the rug will not help. It can actually hurt you to avoid unhappiness. It’s  not fun or easy, but there are some important reasons why acknowledging your unhappiness instead of avoiding it is essential to living a healthy and whole life.

1. You cannot selectively numb unhappiness without numbing joy, gratitude, love, and happiness

Researcher Dr. Brené Brown says that, “You can’t selectively numb. When you numb shame, you numb everything.” If you are continually numbing and forgetting your discomfort then you have no room in your life for joy, gratitude, love, and happiness. It’s a package deal. I don’t want to just gloss over pain with one wide brush of cliches — “you can’t reach the light without going through the darkness,” “there’s always a storm before a rainbow,” blah, blah, blah. But these ideas become clichés for a reason — they’re true.

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Experiencing unhappiness is a part of the human experience. Admittedly, it’s my least favorite part, but what can I do? I have to go through it. By allowing my pain to exist without trying to shove it into a deep, dark closet somewhere in the recesses of my soul, I can use that pain to understand more about why it’s present in my life. And when I allow myself to experience it, then I can experience joy and gratitude when it passes.

2. Unhappiness will not go away simply because you choose to ignore it

That might sound negative. But think about it this way: if you are always avoiding the pain in your life, where do you expect it to go?

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A relationship might be making you unhappy. Ignoring your unhappiness in that relationship will not make the sadness go away. Only dealing with the root of the pain can have any impact. I know how easy it is to try to ignore, to attempt to forget and run away from pain, only to find it constantly knocking on the door of my heart. If I ignore it long enough, the pain will start leaking in through the windows and manifesting in weird ways (ever had a crazy meltdown if Starbucks gets your order wrong?). Forgetting about the pain just won’t work. It will always be there, waiting to be addressed, waiting to be felt.

It’s like if you were experiencing a surprising pain in your back but you didn’t deal with it. You just take a ton of Advil and try not to move as much. The problem will not resolve itself and spine issues are no joke. It won’t be resolved until you go to a doctor and discover what’s happening beneath the surface. I’m not saying that every single source of unhappiness requires professional help, but it does require attention. And it’s not going anywhere until it gets what it needs.

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3. Unhappiness is a sign that something needs to be adjusted in your life

When you are unhappy, sad, angry, disappointed, lonely, or frustrated, the last thing you want to do is stop and process that emotion. If you’re anything like me, you want punch that discomfort in the face and run and hide under a blanket of Netflix and chocolate, hoping that the pain will forget you ever existed. Take it from me, this is not a useful coping technique. Instead of trying to forget about the unhappiness in my life, I’m learning to treat it as a sign. Discomfort in your life is a sign that something is wrong, or that something needs to be adjusted.

If you feel extremely anxious in certain social situations, maybe it’s time to evaluate who your friends are. It might be time to find safer people to surround yourself with. If you just really sad at the end of the day, it’s time to examine your career choices. If that’s not an option, think about what would make coming home at the end of the day a relaxing and rewarding experience. Do you tend to overreact when someone forgets about an appointment or a friend blows you off? Think about the first time you felt that deep pang of rejection or abandonment. You might be reliving a more fundamental and serious pain that is aggravating smaller more mundane sources of frustration.

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Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Emily Myrin

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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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