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How to train for a happy life in 7 easy tips

How to train for a happy life in 7 easy tips

Every serious athlete will tell you that in order to compete with the best, you have to train. It takes hours upon hours to just get into the same league, let alone be the best at something. If we really want to excel at anything, we must prepare for it and make it part of our daily lives. It is not something we can just “wing” and see where we end up. It takes dedication, perseverance, and commitment.  It requires effort (lots of it) and a daily dose of attitude.

Isn’t life just as important?

Shouldn’t we be gearing up for bringing our best self to every moment, every experience, and every person we meet?  With all of the negativity in the world, we are bombarded with hate and anger, accompanied by misunderstanding and distrust.

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But we all want something better, don’t we? Maybe we won’t say it out loud, but we are all thinking it.

We all want to be happy. We all want to feel alive and that our days here mean something. We all want something to look forward to and to believe in.

No need to get on your latest running shorts or sneakers… you might not even break a sweat, but this training is serious stuff.

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Shake it off

There are always going to be things we cannot change though we want to and the past will always haunt us if we let it. If we really want to be happy, we have to move past the stuff that isn’t there anymore or the stuff that isn’t so happy.  Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting — it means, “I’ve accepted it, but holding onto it weighs me down or it makes me better.”  People are going to say bad things regardless of whether or not you are in their favor or not.  You know in your heart if it’s true or not.  As Dr. Seuss said, “Those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.”

Positive vibes only

It’s easy to get sucked into the mindset of the “Debby Downers” who lurk around, just waiting for someone else to join their group.  Be mindful of those that sap your energy and those that restore it. ONLY spend time with the people who encourage you, who support you, and make you better.  It may mean saying “goodbye” to people you really care about, but no one can keep from drowning when people are constantly trying to hold you under water.  You can tell when you are with good people — you naturally gravitate towards them and find yourself removing yourself from those who just don’t have the “feel-good” vibes you need.  There is nothing wrong with putting your own needs before someone else’s.

Listen to your heart

Too often, we let our minds get in the way of our hearts.  We do what makes sense instead of trusting the path we already know we must take.  Listening to your heart can be difficult when people try to talk over it.  They tell you that your heart is wrong and that everything you love and want is just a waste of time.  Ignore them!  Your beating heart pounds its echo loud when it wants to be heard.  Your only job is to believe in its message and allow it to guide you where you really need to be.  No matter where it takes you, you will have followed your heart without a single regret.

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Believe in magic

Who doesn’t remember being captivated by the circus or “The Wizard of Oz” or even Tinkerbell and her Pixie Dust from “Peter Pan?” Too often we search for a rational explanation and refuse to believe in something until we find the answer why.  Accept that some things don’t have an explanation and no amount of logic will make it so.  Things that seem random really might not be all that random and when we believe in something a little more than only what we can see, touch, and hear, it’s just the magic talking.

Sing out loud

I know it sounds corny, and most people don’t understand why singing makes the list.  The next time you are sitting at a stop light and the person in the car next to you is belting out whatever top 40 hit that’s on the radio, look at their face.  Do they look unhappy to you?  Nope.  They are having a ball.  They don’t care if you laugh or sing right along with them.  Don’t just hide out in your shower or when no one else is at home with you… sing! Try it now! See? Feels good, right?

Find joy in every day life

The negative is always upon us. It’s there — in the news, in the schools, in the political arena.  We can’t escape it, but we can put joy in its place.  The secret is to look for it, buried beneath all of the other crap.  Look for the joy in a laughter of a baby.  Look for the joy found in old friends being reacquainted with one another. Look for joy in the warm cup of coffee you now hold in your two hands.  Look for the joy in a simple “hello” between two strangers.  Joy is everywhere… you just have to find it.

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Give yourself away

It sounds boring, but it works.  We cannot feel unhappy when we give of our talents and gifts to someone else for no other reason that we can.  Give to someone without being asked to or for any kind of recognition.  Leave parts of you with unsuspecting people who never even learn your name.  Create a legacy that will long be remembered long after you are gone.  Most importantly, give your time away unselfishly and never request it to be returned to you.  Create value in your message, in the way you live, and how you inspire others to fall in love with life.

The constant pull between just existing and really thriving is where our free will comes in.  Being happy is a choice.  It must be made every day.  Just like the athletes who train for their one shot at something exciting, we need to start “training” for our best event yet… life.

Featured photo credit: Ismael Nieto via unsplash.com

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Michelle A. Homme

Author, Speaker, Quote Writer, Empowerment Coach

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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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