Advertising
Advertising

The 5 Secrets of Playful People

The 5 Secrets of Playful People

Walk through any park on any given day after school, and you will most likely see and hear a bunch of kids running around with abandon, laughing, and having a super time doing what most kids do best – playing.

Unfortunately though, once those rambunctious kids reach a certain age, for most of them, playing will just be a fond memory from their childhood. I have a question for you. Where is it written that adults can’t play? Did you know that there is a significant amount of research that shows us why, as adults, we need to be incorporating play into our daily lives?

The benefits are numerous: Playtime lowers our stress levels, boosts our creativity and problem solving skills, enables us to develop deeper connections with others, and it’s shown to improve our brain activity. If the recent popularity of adult coloring books is anything to go by, I’d say we’re ready to let our inner child let loose and run free.

Advertising

Here are 5 tips to bring more play into your life:

1. Schedule playtime

Scheduling sounds like a very grown up thing to do, doesn’t it? But let’s face it, we are all incredibly busy – rushing to get the kids ready in the morning, rushing to work, and then at the end of the workday, rushing home to get dinner ready. In fact, we spend so much time rushing around, we often forget to slow down and enjoy the moment.

A suggestion: schedule a playtime. Treat it as you would your regular yoga lesson or going to the gym. Put a time and day in your calendar and don’t allow yourself off the hook – even if you have a lot of work or are tired! Playtime can be anything you want it to be, from picking up a ball and playing fetch with your dog, or building a Lego car. It doesn’t matter what you do; it’s about the attitude you bring to it.

Advertising

2. Bring back family game night

Do you remember times as a kid when you’d sit around the dinner table with your family and play a board game? Why not reintroduce family game night at home? Playtime helps build relationships, strengthen connections, and has the added bonus of teaching the kids how to be ‘good’ losers. Besides, there really is nothing better than sitting around the table and hearing your whole family engaged in conversation and laughter.

3. Take a few toys to work

Our workplaces can be sterile and brain numbing places at times, so why not bring in a few toys? Grab some from home or buy a selection to brighten up your work place. When you find yourself stuck on how to solve a problem, or you’ve had a particularly stressful phone call, give yourself a 5 to 10 minute toy break. I guarantee that if you let loose and totally focus on the joy of playing, you’ll be able to return to what you were doing before with a new perspective.

Recently I’ve taken up juggling: whenever I feel the need to take a break, I stop what I’m doing and juggle. It’s great fun, it automatically gets me to focus on the juggling itself, it’s a great de-stressor, and it’s been shown to help improve memory and creativity.

Advertising

4. Dance like nobody’s watching

Next time you’re in the car and a cool tune comes on, crank up the radio and boogie in your seat. Go on – I dare you! Nobody’s watching; and even if they are, they’ll smile when they see you dancing away in your seat. Once you get comfortable with seat dancing, you can expand to busting out a few moves in the office lunchroom or at home after a long day at work. Who knows…you may just start a dance party (plus it’s fantastic exercise)!

5. Organize a play date with friends

Call up one or a few friends and organize a play date. Meet in a central location, pull a coin out of your purse and then explain to everyone that you are leaving your adventure today up to fate. Get someone to call up for heads and down for tails, and then toss the coin to see where you’re going.

Each time a decision has to be made, give yourself two options (for example, do we stop for a coffee or keep walking?) and toss the coin to find your answer. Enjoy the freedom of not knowing in advance where you’re going or what you’ll end up doing.

Advertising

The key point to remember is that play is not a luxury but a necessity if you want to live a healthy, creative, and joyful life. Don’t leave playtime just to the kids or your dog. Get out there, embrace that inner child and laugh until you cry!

Featured photo credit: Fotolia via au.fotolia.com

More by this author

Fran Sorin

Author, Coach, Speaker

The 5 Secrets of Playful People

Trending in Communication

1 7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language 2 How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake 3 7 Science-Backed Books About Spirituality That Will Change Your Life 4 20 Things Life Is Too Short to Worry About 5 How to Find Inner Peace and Lasting Happiness

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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

Read Next