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13 Small Daily Habits To Practice Mindfulness

13 Small Daily Habits To Practice Mindfulness

“Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

You cannot change the past and you cannot decide your future. These are the two principles I always apply when I have to remind myself to practice mindfulness. The present is what matters, what I am experiencing NOW. It can be a taste, smell, sight, feeling, physical sensation, or emotion. Once I start doing that without criticizing myself or being judgmental, then I am practicing mindfulness. I always tell myself that I will never have this moment again so I must enjoy it to the full.

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”- Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Here are 13 daily habits to help you practice mindfulness.

1. Start when you wake up

Start early. As soon as you are wake up, begin reflecting on the pleasure of waking, stretching your limbs and thinking about all the great things you are going to achieve today. Forget about checking email and turning on the TV news till later in the day. Who wants to ruin such an awesome start?

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2. Enjoy the physical sensations

As you start your morning routine, savor the moments in the shower as the water cascades down and enjoy the drying sensation the towel gives you. Delight in the warmth of the familiar material on your skin as you get dressed. Admire yourself in the mirror.

3. Keep mindfulness in check

If you savor every moment of the day, nothing will get done and you will certainly not arrive in time for work! Apart from these practical considerations, the brain does better on short bursts of mindfulness, rather than longer sessions. This is the advice given by Marsha Lucas in her excellent book, Rewire Your Brain For Love

4. Go for a walk

“Solvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking.” – Latin proverb.

Once you get into contact with nature, you will be better able to experience the wonder of nature, reflect on the beauty of it and calm your mind. Even a five minute walk, preferably in a garden or park, can do the trick.

5. Get in the flow

Some people may experience difficulty in getting into the zone because of distracting thoughts, worries and regrets. How can you quieten your thoughts? The best way is to do your favorite creative activity such as writing, drawing, cooking or playing the piano. Once you get in the flow, your thoughts are calmer and you feel more relaxed.

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6. Breathe deeply

A great habit to get into is to concentrate on your breathing. Get in touch with it. As your lungs fill, remind yourself of what is happening and then when you breathe out, focus on that too. All the mental chatter just stops and this is a great mindfulness technique we should practice often during the day.

7. Focus and stop multi tasking

Did you know that multi tasking takes up 50% more of your time? Switching between tasks and never finishing them interrupts the flow, and you spend ages getting back on track again. The other downside is that errors and distractions are likely to occur. A much better idea is to focus on a single task and switch off distractions such as iPhones and emails.

8. Switch off and connect

Have you noticed how nobody looks you in the eyes anymore? That is because they are all attached to their devices – connected to the world but not to people around them. Another mindfulness technique to adopt is to switch off devices and really talk to a person, smile at them, look into their eyes as you do so. Now that is really connecting. Children, couples, and colleagues feel more accepted and closer to each other.

“I realized several years ago that I had stopped looking in my children’s eyes. And it was shocking to me.”- Pat Christen, Hope Lab CEO and parent.

9. Accept the negative feelings too

Accept the moment you are in – that is the key element in mindfulness. This also includes those negative thoughts, feelings and moods we are experiencing. Recognizing negative emotions without resisting them or trying to control them is crucial. They do not define you nor your existence.

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10. Enjoy food

Mindfulness is now regarded as a possible aid in helping to reduce obesity and overeating. The secret is to be aware of all the sensations as we eat. Think about how food is the gift of the universe brought to us by an incredible network of people and natural forces working together. We can enjoy the food and pay closer attention to the smells, textures, tastes and colors of what we are eating. Try imagining that this is the first time you have tasted it! This slows the whole process, we eat less and our digestion will thank us.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University are studying how mindfulness while eating may help to reduce obesity in children and adults.

11. Try raisin meditation

Here, you use all your senses to look at a raisin and start meditating on it. Watch the video below to get a better idea of how to actually do this. This also helps to make meditation more accessible to everyone.

12. Listen to music mindfully

Music transcends all borders and is a powerful means of connecting the human race. Listening can stir powerful emotions in us and can be a healing, positive force. Before listening, relax in a comfortable position and do some breathing exercises. Relish the sounds and rhythms, get inside the track and imagine yourself dancing or waltzing to the sound waves.

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“Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the [Bach’s] B Minor Mass?” — Michael Torke, composer

13. Practice loving kindness

There is now some research that shows that simply directing well-wishes and kind thoughts towards ourselves and other people can be incredibly beneficial. Read the article here to see 18 scientific reasons why this is so valuable in providing relief from suffering and cultivating compassion.

Spend some time thinking what you wish for yourself and what you want for others close to you. Try doing this for about 30 seconds before you fall asleep every night. This is much more effective than worrying whether your sleep aid is going to work or not!

Featured photo credit: Be mindful/David Davies via flickr.com

More by this author

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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