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10 Simple Habits that Will Lead You to True Happiness

10 Simple Habits that Will Lead You to True Happiness

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.

More by this author

Nemanja Manojlovic

Editor at MyCity Web

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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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