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You Can Be Mentally Stronger If You Do This Small Act Every Day

You Can Be Mentally Stronger If You Do This Small Act Every Day

As humans, we tend to set goals throughout our entire lives and dedicate most of our time trying to achieve them. That gives us purpose and motivation to strive forward. Yet, it can have detrimental consequences to our mental health, activating stress indicators that come as a byproduct of pushing ourselves too hard towards massive goals.

As psychologist Karl Weick suggests in his article “Small Wins,” we should make it an everyday practice to focus our attention towards the positive by counting each small win we make. By taking the Alcoholics Anonymous as an example, he suggests that the principle works due to the change in perspective. Instead of focusing on overwhelming and complex goals, participants are encouraged to choose small, achievable daily actions:

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The impossibility of lifetime abstinence is scaled down to the more workable task of not taking a drink for the next 24 hours, drastically reducing the size of a win necessary to maintain sobriety.

By celebrating these small, daily wins, participants feel more confident and motivated to achieve the same satisfactory feeling the next day, and so the behavior gains momentum leading to an almost effortless achievement of the ultimate goal.

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The Dangers of Dreaming Big

We are encouraged on a daily basis to “dream big” and set our bars high if we want to achieve great things. This phrase is an inescapable part of every motivational speech by almost every successful person who ever lived. There is nothing wrong in the saying itself, yet it tends to be misinterpreted by us, the regular mortals who are fascinated by fairy tale stories of dreams that come true to those who are brave enough to wish and focus on the ultimate goal.

For every great achievement ever made, there have been a million of small wins and breakthroughs that gradually led there, and this is something many people tend to overlook when working on achieving their goals. If we forget to appreciate the small wins we regularly make, the following negative consequences will appear:

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  • Our sense of self-worth can be worsened
  • We risk feeling bad about ourselves and feeling incompetent when we constantly compare present state to our final goals, which can only lessen our chances of making progress
  • We are prone to the feeling of failure and depression when our goals can’t be achieved
  • The increased amount of stress we have to cope with when we work on getting it all and now is counterproductive, as it blocks our productivity and weakens our physical health

Once we change the perspective from big to small and break our final goal into smaller, achievable chunks, we take the pressure off and avoid the risks to our health. By focusing on everyday progress, we automatically feel much more motivated, which causes our brain to get hooked on the positive rush and the feeling of accomplishment striving to achieve more. Understanding the importance of small wins and knowing how to apply it to your everyday life will cause tremendous benefits to your goal achieving and your overall health.

Here is the 4-step process you can take to develop the habit of celebrating small wins:

Step 1: Start small

First of all, you need to write down your final goal, and forget about it. It sounds silly, but this will help you focus on the fragments ahead of you, which is the only way to get things done. Instead of wasting energy on planning months ahead, focus on the next day’s challenges only. Be here and now and only think one step ahead in order to move forward. This will give you the constant sense of accomplishment, which will motivate you to move forward and boost your self-esteem.

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Step 2: Reflect often

Every once in a while, take some time to reflect on your progress. So often we focus on goals yet to be accomplished and forget about the progress that has already taken place. This means comparing yourself — with yourself. For example, if your goal is to lose certain amount of weight, instead of beating yourself up for not getting there yet, you should compare some older photos of yourself to the new ones. By doing so, you will get the visual proof of your progress which serves as great inspiration for future advances and inspires positive emotions.

Step 3: Reward yourself

From early childhood, we get familiar with the achievement — reward formula which makes us consider it a norm in each such situation. Therefore, if you achieve certain success, no matter how big or small, your mind expects that you provide yourself with an adequate prize. If the reward doesn’t come, your motivational fuel gets drained, making your efforts futile. So, next time when you catch yourself single-mindedly chasing a complex goal without appreciating the small wins, give yourself a break and treat yourself to a movie, favorite sweet, or a short trip with your friends.

Step 4: Enjoy the process

Maybe the most important element to keep in mind in order to maintain mental strength in a competitive and goal-oriented world is to remind yourself to be content with yourself and the goals achieved. Remember to have fun and not take yourself too seriously. Enjoy experimenting and growing. By appreciating the process and the lessons learned, you will be able to avoid the stress and negative emotions, even if you don’t achieve the ultimate goal.

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Ana Erkic

Social Media Consultant, Online Marketing Strategist, Copywriter, CEO and Co-Founder of Growato

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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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