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How Making Gift-Giving A Habit Improves Your Mental Health

How Making Gift-Giving A Habit Improves Your Mental Health

“People are naturally selfish and everyone just looks out for themselves.” How many times have you heard or thought of a statement like this? Is it true? According to a recent study about selfishness, it appears that people are not naturally selfish! In the study, they discovered that even when the part of the brain that controls generosity was interrupted, participants in the study acted generously out of impulse. This study showed that selflessness can be a natural response, instead of an effort.

This is good news for people who want to build a habit of gift giving. It won’t be so hard to do after all, when your natural impulse is to be generous. If you have ever gone through a season where you are constantly taking and never giving, you will know that it wears on you after a while. Constantly taking and never giving back can actually prevent happiness, the one thing that people around the world are looking for.

Psychologists say that giving gifts can improve our mental health, which generally makes us happier. They take it one step further by saying that if you give without the expectation of receiving anything in return, your mental health will definitely improve and you will feel good inside about what you have done.

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If you want to improve your mental health by making a habit of gift-giving, here are some tips that will help you accomplish your goal:

1. Gifts Aren’t Just for Special Occasions

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    Most people think of gifts in relation to birthdays, Christmas, and other events that call for gift-giving. People are generally expected to give gifts for these types of occasions though, and while you will feel some satisfaction from choosing the right gift for someone, it is not enough to create the kind of happiness that selfless giving bestows upon the giver.

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    While you are trying to make a habit of gift-giving, think outside the box. Make a list of the people in your life that you want to bless, and give a gift to each of them without an occasion to go with it. They will be surprised and pleased at your show of generosity. Just remember to keep your gifts appropriate. Giving a new girlfriend an expensive piece of jewelry will only have her running for the door! Instead, try a small token to let her know that you are paying attention when she talks about what she likes.

    Another option here is to start paying closer attention to the needs of your loved ones, and focus your gift-giving on meeting those needs. If your sister needs her car’s oil changed but can’t afford it or make time to get it done right now, offer to take her car in and pay for the oil change. If you have the means to meet some of the needs around you, do it – once you build this habit, your life will change from solely caring about your own needs, and you might find that others start helping you with your needs after you spend some time meeting theirs.

    2. Be Selfless, But Don’t Forget Yourself

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      It is possible to be too selfless. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will find yourself in a bad place both emotionally and financially. While you are making a permanent habit of gift-giving, don’t forget that you deserve a gift every now and again as well. Sometimes people wait to receive certain gifts from others, thinking that their self-worth is tied to whether or not a person shows them appreciation by giving them the gift. But your self-worth cannot come from other people, not even your spouse! You are who you are, regardless of who does or does not give you gifts. So give yourself a gift once in a while. After all, who knows what you want to receive more than you do?

      A few years ago, I received a retroactive raise from my job, and it came just before Christmas. I had already bought gifts for my loved ones, so I used the money to buy myself a Christmas gift – one that I knew no one would be able to afford to give me as a gift anyways! I bought a keyboard with all the bells and whistles, and years later, I still have it and use it. It was not selfish of me to give that gift to myself. I worked hard for that money, and it was nice to be able to give myself a gift like that. Don’t go overboard with gifts for yourself, but try it every now and again. Happiness can come from giving gifts to others AND yourself.

      3. How Much Should You Spend?

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        The consumerism in our culture today is almost sickening when it comes to gift-giving. Both the giver and the recipient fall prey to associating the cost or value of the gift with how much the giver cares for the recipient. We have all heard the saying “It’s the thought that counts,” but is it true? If you do put thought into the gifts you give to people, this saying will be true for you.

        Again, gifts don’t have to be elaborate or expensive – they can be as simple as making someone’s favorite cookies, buying lunch for a co-worker from a restaurant you know they love. The key is to think about what the person needs or wants, and then provide it. Even if the gift isn’t perfect, the recipient will recognize that you are paying attention to what they talk about day to day, and truly care enough about them to try and give them something that they really do need or want. When they can see the thought behind your gift-giving, you will find the appreciation and happiness that comes from selfless giving.

        Try Gift-Giving Today!

        As you start your new habit of gift-giving, remember, what will improve your mental health is not the value of the gifts you give; it’s the act of giving that will bring you happiness. You may encounter some skeptical people along the way because many people still believe that everyone is basically selfish. Don’t give up on them – your real gift to these people is the act of kindness, that proves people can be selfless in today’s society. As you give your gifts, encourage others to do the same to their friends and family members. If everyone were to care about the needs of others more than their own needs, all of our needs would be met!

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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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