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5 Valuable Life Lessons Travel Has Taught Me

5 Valuable Life Lessons Travel Has Taught Me

We see and hear quotes every day stating that travel is the greatest teacher. We meet and know people who have ventured over to other countries and returned with exciting stories, all telling us that going to another country has opened their eyes.

I never really understood it until I, myself, went venturing out into the big wide world. Upon my return, everyone who I knew told me that I had changed. Not in a bad way, but they all said I had grown so much from when they last saw me and I had changed for the better.

Everybody changes throughout their journey, and everybody grows at their own pace. We just don’t seem to really notice it until we take a moment and reflect on who we are now, compared to the person we were last year or the year before.

I have only been to 18 countries (and counting, I plan to do more!) and I know there are many other people in the world who have been to a lot more than I have; but I want to take a moment and reflect on the top five things I have learnt from my travels so far:

1. Every Single Person Is Beautiful in Their Own, Individual, Way.

Throughout your travels, you meet so many interesting people along the way. I did find, however, that I met a lot more people when I traveled alone than when I went with friends. I think this is because when you are alone, you have to step outside of your comfort zone and make friends with whomever you can. Otherwise, you will have a pretty boring time. What is the point of going overseas if to not meet a person from that country?

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You meet all sorts of characters. Funny, serious, classy, rude, obnoxious, shy, friendly; you name it, you will meet them. What I did find was, once I got to know them on a deeper level, we were all very similar. We all had our fears and insecurities, we all had our dreams and desires, and we all wanted the same thing. I realized that every human being I had met on this planet, thus far, all wanted to feel valued and wanted. We all want to feel like we are appreciated in some way.

Once I realized this, I learnt to look past the flaws and the walls people had built for themselves and learnt to see the beauty within them. I learnt that every single person deep down really did have a big heart. Some just didn’t know how to show it as well as others.

Our journeys and past experiences create the person we are now. Some people have experienced such turmoil and just haven’t come to terms and healed from it. We are all messed up in some kind of way. No one is perfect, but we are all so beautiful in our own individuality. We just express it differently.

2. You Really Don’t Need Much to Survive

When you are jumping from one country to the next, you really don’t want to be carrying a great deal with you. I’ve learnt to ditch the five thousand outfits, the several pairs of shoes, all the gadgets, and whatever else I was used to having so accessible.

I’ve actually become a pro at packing and am renowned for packing my bags within an hour of leaving for the airport. All I really need is clean underwear, a few outfit changes, bikinis, some toiletries, hairbrush, a jacket (in case it gets cold), running shoes, thongs/flipflop/jandals (depending which country you are from), nice shoes (in case I go out somewhere that I need to be dressed up at), my phone, camera (must take photos of EVERYTHING), house keys and passport.

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I have realized that we really don’t need much with us. Especially when you are too busy watching sunsets, going on adventures, tasting exotic food, and experiencing new and exciting moments.

3. The Little Things Can Sometimes Be the Most Priceless

When we are at home in our comfortable surroundings, sometimes we forget to appreciate the little things like watching the sun rise or set, noticing the people around us and the emotions they are feeling, having a proper bathroom and toilet, the warmth of our own bed, I really could go on . . .

After experiencing some amazing sunrises and sunsets all over the world, when I am back home I always try to take a moment to watch the sun rise or set and just enjoy the beauty. You don’t need to be overseas to see a sun set or rise, it’s there every day wherever you are. Just admiring the world and something so natural for even a minute can elevate your mood.

One of my favorite past times when I am overseas is people watching. I love sitting at a cafe or restaurant and just watching those around me. Even at airports you see so many people saying good bye, and the farewells are filled with tears. It is one of those places filled with emotion. People are jetting off somewhere full of excitement, saying a sad goodbye to a dear one or coming back from a business trip tired and flustered. Sometimes, when we are at home, we forget to notice others around us.  The world is a beautiful place and there are so many emotions around us.

How about when you get home and finally get into your warm, cozy bed? How good does it feel after sleeping on several different, sometimes uncomfortable beds? And hooray, a proper bathroom! If you ever find yourself in a third world country, a toilet with toilet paper is a blessing we definitely take for granted.

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4. We Never Remember What People Do for Us, We Remember How They Made Us Feel

When you travel, you meet so many people. You form many friendships, some for a short period of time, some that can last a lifetime. You learn that people will come and go in your life. The ones that leave an imprint are the ones who made you feel either really good or really bad.

Along my journey, I have met some people who I will forever hold dear in my heart. They are those genuine souls who I know will be my friends for life. The people who you had the best days with, and who were there through some bad days. The ones who you laughed with until your bellies hurt, and the ones who held your hair up because you had too much to drink.

You also remember those who you only had a brief encounter with but who had such a beautiful aura about them. It’s nice to know there are genuine people out there, and it’s a blessing to meet them. On the other hand, the ones that gave us bad vibes or made us feel uncomfortable in any kind of way are also people we remember.

From learning this, I try to my best to consciously be aware of how I can make another feel. For I know this is how they will always remember me. As an old saying goes, it’s not where you go, it’s who you meet along the way.

5. You Will Be Much Happier If You Appreciate What You Have

After experiencing a few different cultures, the one thing I noticed the most was that the people from third world countries seemed to smile at you more. They didn’t have much, yet they were always smiling when you walked by. They appreciated what they did have and they were genuinely happy.

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I also found that the majority of those in third world countries were the most generous. They knew what it was like to have nothing, so they never wanted to see somebody else go without. If they only had a banana to eat, they would split it and offer you the other half.

Sometimes we get so stuck in our ways of society and the rat race we find ourselves in that we forget to stop and appreciate just how much we really have. If we have a roof over our head, a bed to sleep in, and can eat every day, we are richer than millions of other people in the world. We get so caught up in what we want and what we don’t have that we forget to notice what we do have, which really is a lot. We really are blessed.

There is a practice that the Law of Attraction has taught me, and that is to take five minutes of your day to count your blessings. Every morning, and before I go to sleep, I take a moment and say thanks for the fact I woke up and I am still alive and healthy. I give thanks for my family and friends. I thank the universe that I have a roof over my head and I have all the necessities I need. I also reflect on how far I have come as a person and let that feeling of gratitude rush over me. Since starting this practice, I really must say my life has changed for the better. Something has shifted and I highly recommend you try it for yourself; I would love to hear how it affects you.

These are the top five lessons I have learnt through my travels. What are your top five?

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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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