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Love Can Change The World: 6 Ways To Make An Impact In Your Community

Love Can Change The World: 6 Ways To Make An Impact In Your Community

“Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers. The question of what to do with the feelings that have been aroused, the knowledge that has been communicated. If one feels that there is nothing ‘we’ can do…, then one starts to get bored, cynical, apathetic.” Susan Sontag

We are all familiar with this feeling of impotency, this feeling that we can do nothing in face of the poverty, crimes and atrocities of the world. But is it impossible for us to translate our compassion into action? What can we do to positively influence our community and people around us?

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Love can change the world. Here are 5 ways to make an impact in your community and improve the lives of others.

Open Your Eyes and Ears to Understand the Needs of Others

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and to overlook the need for help that’s all around us. When we open our eyes and focus our minds on love and empathy, we see opportunities to make an impact in someone else’s life.

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Use Your Talents And Positions Of Influence

Each of us has unique talents. It may be woodworking, crafting, cooking, or working on the computer. You may not have thought of impacting someone’s life by gifting your talents. For example, let’s say you enjoy woodworking. Seek out a family that you know is struggling financially. Pour your love into a making a piece of furniture that you can sell and contribute the proceeds of the sale to the family. If you want to stay anonymous, leave a note in their mailbox with the proceeds inside. With a little creativity, you’ll find lots of ways to change people’s lives with love.

Anonymous Acts of Kindness

Brightening someone else’s day without them knowing who did it can make a big difference in their lives.

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Here are some ideas to get you started:

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  1. Leave a note of encouragement on a random car in a parking lot.
  2. Pay for the person behind you in a drive through.
  3. When getting gas, leave an envelope with $10 inside and a note saying “Please accept this gift, I hope it brightens your day.”
  4. When eating at a diner, tip your waitress the same amount as the bill.
  5. Put money in parking meters for someone whose time has expired.
  6. Mow  your neighbor’s yard when they’re out of town.
  7. Leave unused coupons next to items on the shelf.

Provide a Warm Meal

There are times when our friends and neighbors need help but don’t feel comfortable asking. They may be sick, stressed out, or having financial difficulties. When you sense this, give them a call asking if you can bring over a hot meal. Give them a day’s notice so that they can enjoy the day knowing that they don’t have to rush home to cook.

Volunteer in your Community

There are many organizations that are impacting people’s lives in a positive way. By volunteering, these organizations can continue providing assistance and you gain a sense of satisfaction by helping. A side benefit is that you also pick up new skills that are valuable in other areas of your life. Can’t think of places to volunteer? Here are a few ideas:

  • Local churches – Look for local churches or synagogues that need help.
  • Habitat for Humanity – Help build houses for families in need and learn valuable construction skills.
  • Food Pantries – Local food pantries organize food drives and feed hungry residents in your neighborhood. FoodPantries.org lets you search for one near you.
  • YMCA – Here you can volunteer to help both children and adults, strengthen your leadership skills, or pick up some valuable teaching experience by tutoring literacy courses.

Make It Your Lifestyle: Practice Daily Kindness

Daily kindness begins with a smile. As you encounter others, put on a smile and say hello. We never know the struggles that a specific person is going through and something as small as a smile and a warm greeting can change someone’s outlook. You’ll find that smiling is contagious. When you smile at someone, they automatically smile back and you are immediately rewarded for your efforts.

Featured photo credit: Love and hope/ John Liu 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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