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Adding Years to Your Life Through Prayer and Meditation

Adding Years to Your Life Through Prayer and Meditation

Recently, I was discussing with my friend about the health benefits of prayer. From what I have reviewed, the findings may surprise you. Regardless of background, economic level, and belief, prayer and meditation seems to contribute to a healthier existence.

The Research

The National Institute for Healthcare until a few years ago flat out refused to even review a study that had the word prayer in it. According to WebMD the NIH is now funding a study through their Frontier Medicine Initiative. The article, based on recent neurological studies, suggests that their is a definite link between prayer and health.

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It is interesting to note that increased funding for these studies have almost doubled over the past 10 years. Dr. Harold Koenig, author of the Handbook of Religion and Health and the associate Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at Duke University documents nearly 1200 studies. His findings show that people, who are prone to this practice, are stressed out less, get sick less, drink less, and are less angry.

He focused specifically on meditation to understand how mind affects the body. It is believed that by radiating loving-kindness to other human beings, nurtured a benefit to those it was directed to as well as the practitioner. That, this sharing practice has by all accounts produced amazing changes both in perception, depth, and health in the participants and has shown documented physical changes on MRI brain scans.

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A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania found, by repeating certain sounds and words called mantras (the Om) that the practitioner creates within himself, vibrations leading up to a change in consciousness, a “quietude” disconnecting the mind – body. When this happens, our limbic system which regulates relaxation becomes activated. This moves deeper still controlling our nervous system, heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism, and so on. Leading to being more relaxed, the body is now more evenly regulated.

The Results

While it may not be on bended knees or crossed legs, the expression of thankfulness, gratitude, a wish to be more gentle, less angry, addition of provisions for loved ones have all pointed to a hope or a target for that direction. I think we would all agree that the world is an amazing place full of wonders and impressive contributions. If nothing more, however the method, meditation and prayer can in fact lead to a healthier existence by simple psychological change.

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Advancement and resolution should be in everyone’s vocabulary. To desire and contribute to a better world whatever the technique is necessary, the more on board this ship, the better. There is an agreement in each that suggests by participating in an earnest hope, whether individually or collectively and whatever word is chosen to describe it, the same conclusion is reached.

True Life Story of Mr. Y

The older gentleman I will call Mr. Y grew up in a church home and wandered away from most of the practices he had learned as a young boy, but mentioned how throughout his life he has always had an internal dialog. He started drinking heavily and as a result, lost his family, job, and self worth. He said that he had been silently crying out during that time for help but no-one lifted a finger. Everyone was too busy pointing one.

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He referenced his last evening of drinking and during a blackout, he came to believe the power of healing. Now I don’t know if his story holds truth, there is no obvious reason for me to doubt him but before me, stood a man dressed professionally who spoke articulately and insisted that he was given health and freedom from alcoholism from the sincere quiet prayers that were made.

In the West the majority of folks are familiar with the terms prayer and meditation. As more and more findings from studies about the positive effects of change because of these practices are released, the indication is that “prayer” can support health – thereby giving life. The offset of stress, an increase in trust, further development with self control are changes we could all use. We eat foods that are healthy, we exercise, and get the recommended amounts of rest. Maybe we could add an additional activity as well. Prayer and meditation does not appear to have a downside.

Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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andre lewis

Former Inside Operations Supervisor UPS

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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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