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Psychologists Find The Surprising Benefit Of Going Through Hard Times

Psychologists Find The Surprising Benefit Of Going Through Hard Times

Going through hard times is rough and uncomfortable, but there are hidden benefits that make it worth it. No one really enjoys the experience of being homeless, jobless, a victim of identity theft, losing your home and most of your belongings to fire, flood or even a tornado, living with cancer in your body, etc., but psychologists say that these lifetime events make us stronger physically and mentally.

According to a research report by Psychologists, Judith Mangelsdorf and Michael Eid: What makes a thriver? Unifying the concepts of posttraumatic and postecstatic growth, “Individuals who lived through posttraumatic growth typically report positive changes in the areas of relationships, spirituality, appreciation of life, openness for new possibilities, and personal strengths.”

1. Relationships

After going through a traumatic event such as losing a loved one, people usually feel closer to their friends and family members. Before the trauma, we tend to take for granted our friendship and kinship with those we have in our lives. After the trauma, such as suffering a loss of someone who meant a great deal to us, like a parent or grand-parent, we realize how precious time is for sharing life with those who are closest to us in our lives and we make more of an effort to connect with them.

Like the song says : “Goin fishin isn’t such an imposition.” (Tim McGraw, Live Like you were Dying)

2. Spirituality

Surviving a life-threatening event makes us realize our lives on earth are temporary and we reach out to a higher power to feel safe. Let’s face it, just about everyone I know fears dying. So, when life throws a curve ball, like being diagnosed with cancer, and you feel scared, it’s comforting to know that no matter what happens, you are going to be alright. We know we are powerless at times against cancer, fire, floods, tornadoes, job loss, etc., so it helps to connect with a high power who has the control over our lives we do not have.

3. Appreciation of Life

When we come face to face with an event whereby we could have been killed, such as a plane crash, we tend to see our life from a different point of view. We usually call it “a second chance” and tend to take inventory to see what we have done in our lifetime and what it is we have not done. While we go through the pain and agony of being broken and bruised, we make plans to have fun and be more spontaneous, and maybe even change our schedule to allow for more family time.

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4. Openness to new Possibilities

Suddenly, after having survived an event that ordinarily would have resulted in death, we view our lives looking through a lens we never used before: “possibilities.” Before the traumatic experience, we may have been set on a course and no one or nothing would steer us off of it, but now, since we have been given more time to live, other possibilities come into play.

Perhaps, there is a new invention written in a notebook with a hesitance to go through the process of making it a real product for others to use, but now there is an urge to take the invention idea to the next level. Or you have had a thought concerning a new career and now being a survivor of hard times, you are open to making a career change.

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5. Personal Strength

An event that nearly takes our life away can make us feel stronger physically and mentally for having survived it. Now we are thinking that we can be more adaptable to certain people and circumstances than ever before. Psychologist believe that after a person survives a death-defying event, their thought processes change significantly and begin to think of themselves more capable of handling anything life throws at them.

Life definitely has its ups and downs, with its hard times. It’s not a pleasant experience going through these challenging times, but it is somewhat comforting to know that you will survive them and be stronger in the long run.

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Featured photo credit: Psychedelic Vision Walk in the Forest via picjumbo.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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