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Science Says People Who Are Moody Are Not Fragile, But More Adaptable

Science Says People Who Are Moody Are Not Fragile, But More Adaptable

Moody people are often thought as difficult people to deal with. Also, there is a sneaking suspicion that they are just being childish and they are mentally fragile.

Women get a raw deal when their bad moods are noticed much more than men, as pointed out in Dr. Julie Holland’s book Moody Bitches. She argues convincingly that women’s moods are a strength, rather than a weakness. A new study from University College of London recently appearing in the Trends in Cognitive Sciences journal also confirms that moodiness is not a bad thing at all and may actually have a biological purpose.

Moods make us more adaptable

The main findings in the UCL study, led by Dr. Eran Eldar, suggest that moods have had an important role in helping us to adapt as we evolved. They are distinct advantages.

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“It’s long been known that mood biases our judgments and perceptions, but this effect has usually been regarded as irrational or disadvantageous.” – Dr. Eran Eldar.

Eldar’s work indicates that moods are a very useful tool in helping us to adapt to our surroundings. They provide the basis for useful learning experiences and prepare us better when we are faced with similar situations in the future.

Moods will change our behavior

When we are in a good mood, the positive glow affects our behavior and makes us more adaptable. An example is a stock trader who gains from an investment. His good mood now means he is more prepared to take risks which will help to respond more quickly to a rising market.

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We can think of it rather like the good mood becoming more a permanent state as the rewards gain in value. But they are also interconnected so we can see them having a ripple effect as we gain success in skills, wealth and social status, not to mention success in finding a soulmate.

“This effect of mood should be useful whenever different sources of reward are interconnected or possess an underlying momentum.” – Dr.Eran Eldar

Bad moods will be equally effective in the diminishing returns and convince us that outcomes are worse than they really are. How many times have we said to ourselves, “I knew this was going to happen.” Our expectations are an exact match of all the punishment and negative consequences raining down on us from a merciless sky. In addition, negative moods really can affect our decision making and reasoning.

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More studies in this area may lead to a better understanding of depressive and bipolar disorders.

Moods can help us adapt to change

In our evolutionary past, we had to adapt to changes in the seasons and the environment. Moods are really like an evolutionary relic. They reflect how early humans had to adapt to finding food when certain meteorological and seasonal changes were crucial to survival.

Warmer temperatures and more available food were positive factors which reinforced the rewards and chances of survival. Winter and colder temperatures were representative of declining rewards and resulted in different behavior, such as having to hibernate to survive and, of course, a lower mood.

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Moods can be reinforced by our thoughts

Another study carried out among bipolar students at the University of Lancaster in the UK, found that positive and negative thoughts were important behavior indicators. The positive thoughts such as repeating a mantra which states that you will indeed do well were influencing moods and subsequent behavior. When the negative thoughts such as fear of having a breakdown were activated, behavior and mood went into a downward spiral. Neutral thoughts, such as acknowledging that you have a lot on your plate, were not nearly as influential in determining mood.

Of course, moods are not the whole answer, fortunately. They are just one element in a complex web of tangled elements such as mind, body, diet, exercise, weather, and social relationships. The important lesson from all this is to realize how moods can help us to adapt to changes more easily. They always have and they always will.

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” – Virginia Woolf

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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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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