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10 Simple Habits that Will Lead You to True Happiness

10 Simple Habits that Will Lead You to True Happiness
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No people on Earth will have the same definition for happiness, and there has been a lot of debate about the nature of this elusive concept by many highly intelligent philosophers, artists and scientists over the centuries. No one has really been able to pin it down, but we can all agree that we need a sense of purpose, someone to love us back, financial security and acknowledgement of our skills and accomplishments.

The degree of importance individuals place on these concepts may differ, but they are essential. The big question, though, is can we make a bunch of small changes to our lifestyle and gradually build a better and happier future for ourselves, growing as people along the way? Well, I’d say yes, and here’s my humble take on the matter.

1. Reflect on your goals, needs and desires every day

People will often spout out gems of wisdom like “you shouldn’t care what others think about you”, but they are strangely silent when you ask them to provide some actionable steps for achieving this noble goal. Well, you can’t just let all feedback from your friends and family fall on deaf ears, but you need to understand what it is that actually make you feel good and motivated in life.

You will need to sit down and have a nice long talk with yourself at some point – empty your schedule for a day or two, stay in, play some relaxing music, create a comfortable atmosphere, have a couple of drinks if you need some help to open up, and start defining your desires, preferences and life goals.

Once you have a good idea of what you really want, you have to take some 10-15 minutes a day to reflect on these ideas and remind yourself of what you need to do to reach your goals.

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2. Start putting 20-25% of your paycheck aside

I’m not going to flat out say that money brings you happiness, because that’s just an oversimplification, but struggling to keep a roof over your head and put food on the table can really dampen the mood. The thing is, regardless of the size of someone’s paycheck, there is always a tendency to throw money away needlessly. It can be out of sheer ignorance or due to impulsive behavior, e.g. getting a six pack of beer after a long Monday or ordering takeout because you can’t be bothered to cook.

However, if you make a few small sacrifices and buckle down, it’s not all that difficult to take 20-25% of your paycheck and put it aside. You can use that extra cash to boost your 401k, create an emergency fund and get something you’ve always wanted a year down the line. It’s a safety net that gives you peace of mind and lets you work on becoming a happier person.

3. Try to solve problems and complete tasks as soon as possible

It might not seem like much at first, but dealing with problems quickly, with grim determination and brutal efficiency has hidden psychological benefits. Yes, at the basic level you will be less stressed out because you won’t have little obligations and chores piling up, but on a deeper level you will be developing a “doer’s mindset”, which can be applied in all aspects of your life.

It’s all about having that tactical timing that allows you to seize great opportunities and nip problems and possible conflict in the bud. This will leave you with lots of free time and very few regrets.

4. Get 4-5 hours of physical exercise per week

You don’t really need to overthink things when it comes to exercise – the key here is to be consistent and keep your body moving day-to-day and week-to-week. Get around 30-60 minutes of strength-building exercises 3-4 times a week, combined with some cycling, distance running, jump rope or interval training routine another 3 days a week, and you’re set.

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You can train at a gym or at home with virtually no equipment, or just take long walks, hike or play some sports when you don’t feel like exercising. This will pump up your body’s natural “feel-good hormone cocktail”, and make you feel limber and strong. It’s also a great confidence boost and a good way to get more comfortable in your own skin.

5. Stock up on books and read for at least an hour a day

It is incredibly important that you don’t just gloss over this point and say: “Oh, yeah, I have a couple of books I’ve been meaning to read, I’ll have some time on the weekend to get started.” Pick up a book right now and spend an hour with it, or just browse through a few books and prepare your reading list.

Don’t go for drivel and don’t even limit yourself to good fiction books alone – non-fiction books are a great way to improve your knowledge in many different fields, from business and time-management to fitness and cooking.

6. Learn to cook with healthy ingredients and limit junk food and sweets

Going cold turkey and swearing off sweets and junk food altogether may not be the best way to go, particularly if it is going to make you anxious and miserable. That being said, you should limit yourself to a few snacks here and there, and try to eat nice home-cooked meals the rest of the time. Not only will tasty nutritious food make you feel great and help you slim down, but your newly found cooking skills will be a great source of pride and nice way to impress the people you care about.

7. Go after the things you want without hesitation

This can be much easier to accomplish once you have learned to tackle problems as soon as they appear, but it still requires a lot of willpower and courage. We fear any kind of change and new things on a primal level, because the most ancient parts of our brains geared for survival know that any change to the status quo carries untold risks.

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However, while it takes a lot of mental power to push through those fears and go after the things we want, it is well worth the effort. The next time you see an attractive man or woman that seems interesting, just go up and start a conversation. If you’ve always wanted to try boxing or dancing, but were afraid of looking silly or people laughing at you, just take that leap of faith.

It will be a bit nerve wrecking and gut wrenching at first, but after you’ve got out of your comfort zone a few times, you’ll become much more confident and way happier.

8. Stay calm and polite, but be ready to enforce your boundaries

It may sound counter intuitive, but if you want to feel good it’s best to focus on making those around you feel nice and relaxed. Now, this is not some New Age mumbo jumbo about “positive energy” or even a version of the old karmic adage of “what goes around comes around” – you are simply ensuring that people are going to treat you well because you seem like a cool person.

That being said, remember that being polite is not the same as being submissive and always agreeing with others. You’ll have to set boundaries and enforce them from time to time, but at least if conflict does break out you’ll know that you’ve done everything you could to keep things civil and that a bit of impoliteness was unavoidable.

Smiling more, being nice and standing up for yourself when politeness fails will greatly reduce the amount of stress in your life.

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9. Go out in the world, socialize and study people’s behavior

Much like the T-800 series Terminator, the more time you spend with people, the more you learn. Some of us prefer a bit of isolation, but being sheltered from the realities of the outside world can cause you a lot of grief down the road, due to your inability to understand and effectively deal with people. Going out on the weekends will not only help you unwind and give you a chance to find a new partner and make new friends, but it will also help you learn more about all kinds of different personalities and how they interact socially.

When you have experience with all kinds of people and all kinds of situations, it’s much easier to keep your cool and make the right choices in your day-to-day life.

10. Adopt a skeptical mindset and learn to examine the information you are given

Knowing how people think and operate is a crucial part of avoiding being swindled, taken advantage of or emotionally abused. You need to understand that a lot of discussions on health, mental well being, morality and spirituality are actually sales pitches. If someone’s trying to sell you something or convince you of something vehemently, don’t be afraid to ask questions and look for solid proof of their claims.

You’ll save yourself a lot of money, nerves, trouble and health problems if you refuse to blindly believe outrageous claims and approach sweet-talking people cautiously.

This is by no means a complete list of things you can do to bring about happiness, but it’s a good place to start. Look at these points as guidelines that will help you build a solid foundation on which you can build the life you’ve always wanted. You might not fulfill every dream, but you will become a much happier person.

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Nemanja Manojlovic

Editor at MyCity Web

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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