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A Philosophical Concept That Will Make You Live a More Peaceful and Fulfilling Life

A Philosophical Concept That Will Make You Live a More Peaceful and Fulfilling Life

I’m sure you’re all more than familiar with the common clichés, “mind over matter,” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” But what you may not have known, is that these familiar turns of phrase are actually the paving stones of an ancient ideology: Stoicism. A disciplined system of living where you never sweat the small stuff, and keep all of your priorities in check.

Stoicism is meant to be practiced, not discussed.

Stoicism is the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint. It is a unique philosophy in the respect that it is meant to be practiced, and not just pontificated and debated upon. You must find your true passion, your true calling, and nurture it. The practice also emphasizes the importance of virtue, and a distinct separation between emotion and reaction.

Practiced by historical and modern men alike, the ideology is finding it’s way back into the mainstream.

The word Stoic is derived from the Greek term Stoa Poikile meaning literally, “the painted porch.” It is influenced by an open market in Athens where the Stoics would famously gather to discuss important matters and teach philosophy to young, eager minds.

The philosophy itself was founded as a Hellenistic [1](the time period between the death of Alexander the Great who was himself a Stoic, and the beginning of the Roman Empire) philosophy circa 300 B.C.E. by Zeno of Citium.

Stoicism is not the practice of avoiding issues, but rather transforming them into opportunities.

Incredibly misunderstood, the belief system has been given a negative stigma [2], as well as those who choose to practice it. It has been said that those who choose to lead a Stoic life choose to lead a life of avoidance and denial. A bleak existence where nothing is faced head on. Hardships are tolerated and accepted instead of challenging and overcoming the obstacles.

Perhaps for some Stoics this may be true. Acceptance is a virtue of high regard, and must be mastered to truly achieve mental strength. But the premise of stoicism is not the avoidance of obstacles; it’s the transformation of the obstacle. Turning every obstacle into a new opportunity. Instead of mindlessly running into the same dead end, creating a way around it. That is the Stoic way of thinking.

Core Values of Stoicism

As you might imagine, after centuries of discussion by the most intellectual minds throughout history, the complexity of Stoicism has developed many facets. As mentioned, many intellectuals, artists, writers and entrepreneurs live their life by these guidelines to inspire creativity and install discipline [3].

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• This system is built for action, not debate.

• The source of our discontent is derived from our impulsive need to act on emotion rather than reason. I.e. many of us don’t think before we act.

• Stoicism reminds us how short life is, and how unpredictable it can be.

• Always be in control of yourself, unwavering in your solidarity.

• It helps us to overcome toxic emotions, training ourselves not to get upset over things which we cannot control.

• All emotions come within ourselves. No one can make you feel any emotion, no matter how strong. How you feel and how you react is all entirely mental.

Example: A stranger is rude to you during your commute. You have the choice to be upset, to feel sorry for them for being miserable, or to disregard it and feel absolutely nothing at all. Whether or not you feel justified with your reactive emotions is irrelevant. You are in charge of the reactive emotion. It is too easy to place the blame on external objects.

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• Find a mentor or model- use them to inspire and encourage yourself to do better and do more.

“Without a ruler to do it against, you can’t make the crooked straight.” – Seneca

• Realize that if you fail, you will survive. You will learn, you will adjust, and you will overcome. Failure it not the enemy. It feeds fuel to the fire.

• Read books that inspire you and expand your knowledge in the areas that you want to grow in. Apply that knowledge to further yourself.

• Stop candy coating things – speak honestly and with conviction. People will respect you for your bluntness. Everyone needs a friend who will tell them the truth when they need to hear it.

• Consider what you spend the most time on. Is it beneficial to your growth? Unless your goal in life is to become a social media super star, browsing Instagram probably isn’t going to advance any opportunities for you. Pick up a book. Listen to a seminar. Do. Something. Productive.

• Fight procrastination. This one I particularly struggle with. But it’s true, get your obligations sorted out in a timely manner, leaving time for leisure and your personal goals.

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• Time is your most precious resource. Don’t waste it.

• Engulf yourself in your passion and what you love. Don’t waste your time being lazy and taking it easy. Push yourself.

“You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat.” – Seneca

Three Men famously set the standard for what it truly means to be a Stoic.

Although many powerful individuals throughout history have famously practiced and helped to shape the foundation of Stoicism, three men in particular brought Stoicism to a new platform, creating a place for it among the scholars.

Marcus Aurelius

The Emperor of the Roman Empire, the most powerful man in existence at the time, ordained by the Gods and with wealth beyond comprehension, preached words of humility, compassion, and restraint. Each day he would write in his journal, notes about what it truly means to be a Stoic. Although that was not his intention at the time. He was merely just trying to better himself.

“Run down the list of those who felt intense anger at something: the most famous, the most unfortunate, the most hated, the most whatever: Where is all that now? Smoke, dust, legend…or not even a legend. Think of all the examples. And how trivial the things we want so passionately are.” – Marcus Aurelius

Epictetus

Born as a slave, he managed to gain his freedom as a teenager. After years of enduring the horrors of slavery, he learned how to channel his emotions and overcome his circumstances by maintaining psychological control. He studied Stoicism as a slave, and went on to open his own school to pass on his teachings after having been freed from slavery.

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“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” – Epictetus

Seneca

A man of noble and wealthy upbringing, a Philosopher who was a close consultant of the emperor Claudius. Claudius exiled Seneca for eight years for supposed adultery. During his exile, he wrote to his family to comfort them, taking no pity on himself or his circumstances. He was released from exile to tutor Nero, son of Claudius who would later rise into power. Seneca stayed a loyal consultant until his suicide was ordered by Nero. Even then he took no pity on himself, just the people who would mourn over his death.

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” – Seneca

How can you practice Stoicism in your everyday life? It’s quite simple, really.

Separate Yourself from Your Comforts

As Seneca suggests, we need to take the time to practice poverty to realize how little we really need. [4] He meant quite literally to go sleep on the streets with nothing but the clothes on your back and what little food and water you need to get by. You can practice this by actually spending a night living on the street, it would be shockingly humbling for sure. A less extreme option would be to go for a trip with a very small bag of limited items. You are not allowed to buy anything else, only bring what you actually need. By the end of the trip, you’ll probably have a few items that you didn’t even touch.

Turn The Obstacle Upside Down

Train your perception to look at things from a broader perspective. Not every occurrence is either cut and dry negative or positive. Perhaps you are faced with an issue, and it can be a bit deterring and it feels like everything is falling apart. Not too quick. Take a moment to walk away and refresh for a moment. Look at it through a new light. There is an opportunity here, you just have to find it. Use it as momentum to better yourself and your goals.

Everything is Temporary

Do not dwell. If something didn’t work out, get over it. Everything is fleeting, especially passion. Think of the things that you so passionately wanted that are bland to you now. A shirt, a new phone, a love interest. It all becomes old and dull at some point. Those things are all pointless on the grand scheme, because you yourself have such a small part in this world that we live in.

Most importantly, don’t get caught up in your passionate emotions. They eat away at your well being and distract you from your goals. Sure, someone may have done you wrong and for that they bite the big them. Maybe they’re horrible, but let them be. Someone else’ shortcomings won’t dull your shine unless you let them. So don’t sweat it.

Related Articles Recommended To Live A Stoic Life

A Really Strong Predictor of Success: Self Awareness (with Ways to Boost It) by Craig J Todd

Why Our Personal Values Matter More Than Ever Today by Heather Poole

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy: Stoicism
[2] aeon.co: Indifference is a power
[3] 99U: The Stoic: 9 Principles to Help You Keep Calm in Chaos
[4] Daily Stoic: What Is Stoicism? A Definition & 3 Stoic Exercises To Get You Started

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Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, writer, & plant-based food enthusiast.

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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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