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Collect Moments, Not Things. You’ll Have No Regrets When You Get Old.

Collect Moments, Not Things. You’ll Have No Regrets When You Get Old.

Do you remember your first mp3 player, or that non-fat caramel latte you bought last week? How do those items make you feel? Now, think of a Christmas with your family. It probably isn’t the gifts you think of first; you probably think of the conversations, the laughter, and the board games. Lasting joy doesn’t come from objects, it comes from experiences. Our brains are like living scrapbooks; they collect moments in time, frame them, and revisit them constantly. We can derive happiness from these memories years after they are made, and we can enjoy them in a way we can never enjoy material things.

Seek Experiences And Collect Memories

Most of us can distinguish quite clearly the difference between the pleasure we get when our new iPhone arrives in the mail vs. the happiness we feel during a dream vacation to Italy. Whereas we may feel excited during the days leading to a vacation, we tend to feel impatient when waiting for an object. Where most of us lose interest in a new gadget or toy relatively quickly, we tend to cherish a memory.

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In one study, researchers explored the relationship between happiness and memory and found that people draw upon past experiences for a sense of happiness and well-being[1]. Another research article analyzed what people tend to regret in life; they discovered that in a descending order of importance, these were the most common regrets in life: education, career, romance, parenting, the self, and leisure[2]. Notice that nowhere in this list is, “not getting a yacht,” or “not buying a Coach purse.” The things on this list are experiences, not things. When we focus on pursuing experiences that we want to have, instead of things we want to buy, we are filling up our scrapbook with beautiful pictures and rich, funny stories. Even more stressful events, once over, can make the most riveting and funny stories.

So, in this society of materialism, how do we change our focus from consumerism, to the pursuit of experiences?[3] Most of us aren’t going to jump off the couch right after reading this and go skydiving, and that’s OK! Some of the happiest moments in our life aren’t the most exciting ones. Here are several ideas to help you start collecting.

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Make A Bucket List

We all have things that we secretly want to do. Making a list and sticking it up on your bulletin board will bring those experiences that much closer. Most of us give up on our more ambitious plans, believing them to be impossible or too expensive.

Keep An Adventure Jar

Keep a jar on your kitchen table. Every time you decide not to buy something you don’t really need, or decide not to eat out, put the money you would have spent on those things in the jar. Most of us don’t realize how much money we could save if we didn’t spent it on little, pointless things.

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Have Some Small-Time Goals

Not all experiences need to be world-changing. Try doing something differently every week or even every day. Choose a different way to get to work, or have some new people over every once in a while. Take a little time out of the day to experience life instead of becoming stuck in a mindless routine. You may be surprised how these little things can change your life.

Take Time For Family And Friends

Some of the best memories we have are with other people. Just a conversation with a dear friend may be enough to bring you happiness one day when you’re feeling down.

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Be Open To New Things

Many of us are afraid to stray outside our comfort zones, which will often keep us from experiencing many things in life and result in regret. Life is meant to be lived. Do new things, they’re how memories are made!

Reference

[1] Sociological Research Online: Happiness and Memory: Some Sociological Reflections
[2] US National Library of Medicine: What We Regret Most…and Why
[3] The Atlantic: Buy Experiences, Not Things

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Marina Richter

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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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