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Last Updated on December 17, 2020

Why it is Okay for You to be Alone

Why it is Okay for You to be Alone

Life today is hectic. You work at the office, work from home and even on your vacation. Not forgetting the effort it takes to maintain your personal and social life.

As technology advances and the world moves faster and faster, many people find themselves overwhelmed with trying to keep pace. You, like countless others, may find that you are drained mentally, physically and emotionally. You try to sleep but you just can’t seem to get enough rest or feel refreshed for an extended period of time.

It’s common practice and a popular theory that the best way to de-stress is by doing things we enjoy such as shopping, going on vacation, playing a sport or participating in a hobby-all of which can be beneficial.

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Often times, being with friends and engaging with others, even in a “fun” environment can pull from our energy stores. Being alone and reflecting, connecting with and turning our attention inward is one of the best ways to not only recharge but to also identify and eliminate the unnecessary stressors in our lives.

Don’t be afraid to be alone sometimes.

Actively being Alone

Time alone or engaging in “me time” for many people means sleeping all day or engaging with others via social media or “Netflix and chillin’.” However there is a difference between merely being alone and actively being alone.

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One is intentional and purposeful while the other is a matter of circumstance.

When we are choosing to actively be alone, we consciously set time for reflection and to simply be with our thoughts. This means unplugging from all social media, television and any form of external stimulus.

Journaling (by either writing down or audio recording) our thoughts is one of the most beneficial things we can do for ourselves during our “me” time. It allows us to focus on things that have caused us stress recently and to find a way to mitigate that stress moving forward. When journaling, we want to:

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  • Identify specific incidents that caused us to be upset or feel stressed.
  • List all of the feelings we had associated with each incident – such as anger, disappointment, embarrassment, feeling unappreciated, etc.
  • Write down how we overcame those negative feelings. What did we do to calm ourselves down, cheer up or move on? Were we able to resolve the situation? If so how?
  • Write down ways that we can avoid the stressor altogether (whenever it is realistically possible) and steps we can take to resolve the situation and appease ourselves when we do become stressed.
  • And last but most importantly, always end with a list of things you are grateful for. Research[1] shows that maintaining an attitude of gratitude promotes and sustains good mental and emotional health.

Engaging in reflection and then journaling, provides clarity and de-clutters our thoughts. It allows us to sort, process and make sense of our feelings. It also helps us to create a plan for attacking negativity when it rears its ugly head.

Actively being alone allows you to be fully present in the now

Actively being alone helps us eliminate distractions. It allows us to be fully present and in tune with the now. It makes us conscious of what we are doing, feeling and thinking.

Worrying about the future, and being consumed with whether or not we will achieve our goals or create the life we’ve dreamed about makes us miss out on the beauty and opportunity that is in front of us, right now.

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Learn how to be alone, and purposefully decide to love yourself enough to spend time with your thoughts. Once you’ve spent time processing your thoughts, you will find that your state of mind changes. Your mood improves and your outlook is better. Your loved ones will thank you for it and you will be a refreshed, better version of yourself.

Setting the stage for active alone time

In order for the refreshing to truly begin, we have to remove distractions. A great way to do this is to go to a quiet spot or sit amongst nature. Go to a beach, a wooded area or a quiet park tucked away and leave your phone in the car or turn it off, to eliminate the temptation.

If you can’t take an afternoon to get away, set aside the hour before you go to bed as your active alone time. Shut off all of your electronics, get in touch with you and record your experience.

If you have plans to go to lunch or shopping with friends during your free time, carve out time before or after to disconnect from the outside world and turn your attention inward. In time to come, it will be come a habit of nature.

Being alone is not synonymous with being lonely

There are always going to be moments where we are simply over saturated, and getting away for a week in the Bahamas to rest and recharge is not always an option. This is where we learn to make do, and create our own little oasis right where we are. We have to make time for ourselves. This should not be seen as a form of weakness where being alone equates to being a lonely person. It does not mean you cut off from your social circle and keep to yourself. Instead, it is a form of mental exercise that will not only refresh our minds, but help restore our spirits to give us the type of true rest that can keep us moving towards greater heights in life.

Reference

[1] Harvard Health: Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier

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Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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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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