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The Multifaceted Benefits of Keeping a Mindfulness Journal

The Multifaceted Benefits of Keeping a Mindfulness Journal

We’ve been hearing more and more about the importance of mindfulness from mental health experts and spiritual guides around the world. From Western psychologists to Eastern monks, the benefits of practicing mindfulness have been touted as revolutionary. But when it comes to the specifics, many people still don’t understand mindfulness or how it can be practiced on a daily basis. Thus the introduction of a mindfulness journal is the perfect way to bring this concept down to earth.

Catharsis

Why are so many writers in love with their craft? It turns out, writing is not just useful in certain circles, but for anyone who adopts the habit. Dr. James Pennebaker, a researcher, and author of Writing to Heal, found that writing has a tremendous healing component that most people are unaware of. By writing about traumatic and emotional experiences, humans are better able to organize fragmented memories, accept the past, and release negative thoughts. Thus, keeping a mindfulness journal can serve as a cathartic practice of releasing the emotional baggage of the day.

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Gratitude

Another positive outcome of keeping a mindfulness journal is that you can recount the good things instead of taking them for granted. Especially for those with busy and hectic lives, it can be extremely difficult to truly absorb and celebrate the positive aspects of life. We have several positive experiences on a daily basis, yet most of them are forgotten immediately. Researchers have found that writing about what you’re grateful for is linked to better sleep, lower anxiety levels, and even higher satisfaction in romantic relationships.

Decision-making

Poet and activist Kelly Harris once said, “I truly believe we don’t know how we feel until we write it down.” While she probably did not research this topic, her findings have been matched by the researchers at the University of Michigan. They found that writing out various options helped people explore alternatives they otherwise may not have considered. They also found that those who wrote to make their decisions were less biased and more confident that they’d made the right choice. So if you are looking for clarity and assurance, writing about tough decisions can help you draw conclusions.

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Rewiring

Perhaps the most impressive benefit of keeping a mindfulness journal is its ability to influence your brain. Studies have found literal differences in the brains of those who meditate and those who don’t. Because writing and other artistic activities can put you in a meditative or “theta” brainwave state, journaling can help rewire your brain. A calmer brain means less reactivity when placed in stressful situations, and an improved ability to make good decisions under pressure. You may not even notice these subtle benefits over time. However, others are likely to notice a calmer, more balanced version of you, as you navigate through your day.

Keeping Track

We all have goals. Unfortunately, attaining them is not always what is happening in the real world. Procrastination and a general uncertainty about how to get started keep many people from making progress. Instead of occasionally thinking about your goals as if they are distant pipe dreams, you can keep track of them very closely through journaling. Journaling allows you to make your goals a part of your everyday life, bringing small steps into your reality. After consciously thinking and writing about your goals each day for a year, you may find that you’ve learned, changed, and accomplished many of the tasks that will get you there. Without a journal, working towards goals may remain a muddled and intangible process.

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Assigning Meaning

“What happens to us is not as important as the meaning we assign to it,” says mentor, Michael Hyatt. Oftentimes, we’re not even aware of why we have certain feelings or experiences throughout the day. You might feel overwhelmed, depressed, or angry as a default response to your environment. It may seem that these recurring feelings arise from small nuisances, like a task at work or a friend making a comment. But recurring feelings always come from a deeper belief, otherwise, you would not experience those small nuisances in such a negative way. Journaling helps you unearth what certain events and situations really mean to you. You may find that these interpretations are extremely subjective and not always accurate, making your negative feelings entirely unnecessary.

Featured photo credit: Fredrik Rubensson/Flickr 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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