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How to Always Choose Happiness Even During Tough Times

How to Always Choose Happiness Even During Tough Times

We all have the desire to live happy lives. However, the effort and personal work we have to do to attain this desire can be challenging for us.

Is happiness a choice? Yes. But being happy requires more than just making the choice that “I choose to be happy”. Sustaining happiness in your life takes commitment, courage, a deep understanding of who you are and knowing your purpose in life; and this does not happen overnight. It is a life long journey.

By choosing to embrace happiness into your life, you are taking responsibility for your own contentment.

“Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.” — Joseph Campbell

When you live a happy life, you have more resilience; your confidence and self-belief flourishes. And this enables you to successfully navigate your way through the curve balls (the tough times) that life throws at you.

Some of us are born smiling and some of us are not. We all have a Happiness Set Point that determines our overall well-being. Our happiness in life oscillates depending on what life events we are facing at the time. Our happiness can be significantly be diminished when we face traumatic events in life.

The good news is that although our general mood levels and well-being are partially determined by factors like genetics and upbringing, we can control our happiness. Yes, a good portion of our happiness is within our control.

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The 5 strategies below are actions you can adopt so you can live a flourishing and resilient life where you are able to face those “tough times” in life from a position of strength and of course happiness.

1. Determine What Happiness Means to You

“The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.” — William James- psychologist.

The first step in the journey to having a happy life is to determine what is important to you and what you value in life that brings you joy and happiness.

You don’t have to have all the answers, however you do need a sense of who you are and how you want to live your life.

Happiness can only come into your life when you like who you are, and you are choosing to be the best YOU can be. Until you have attained that state of belief in you, living a happy life will be at times in your life completely out of reach.

Yehuda Berg describes how the words that we use can either empower us or destroy us. Be aware of what words you are choosing to use to describe who you are:

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble”. — Yehuda Berg

2. Understand How Happiness Works for You

“Happiness is not a feeling it’s an action. In order to feel happy you have to do happy.” — Ben C. Fletcher D.Phil., Oxon

We all have very different personalities and this means that for some of us, we find it easier to be happy. A lot of research has been conducted on the relationship between happiness and different personalities and it is very complex.

There is, however, one aspect of happiness that most researchers agree with and that is, the level of happiness in a persons life depends on their vision of what a “good life is”. Once a person works this out, then it is easier for them to identify what they can do to bring happiness to their life.

Happiness is a consequence of what we do and how we behave. Trying to make yourself think happier is not going to work; taking action and doing something different in a more a positive way is more likely to bring happiness into your life.

3. Choose to Be Around the Right People

“The people you surround yourself with influence your behaviors, so choose friends who have healthy habits.” — Dan Buettner

Surround yourself with the people who reflect the person you want to be. Having positive and healthy relationships in life is the key to living a happy life. You do not want to spend any time with people who suck the happiness out of you.

Positive and healthy relationships are where you find the support and strength to face those tough times in life. If you don’t have positive relationships in your life, the chances of having happiness in your life are not that great.

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4. Commit to Helping Others

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Having a sense of purpose is important to having happiness in your life. In essence, the greater sense of purpose we feel, the happier we become.

Helping others, acts of kindness, compassion and service to others increase our wellbeing and sustains happiness in our life.

5. Choose to Take Care of Your Mind, Body, and Spirit

“Self-care is a deliberate choice to gift yourself with people, places, things, events, and opportunities that recharge our personal battery and promote whole health—body, mind, and spirit.” – Laurie Buchanan, PhD

A commitment to being the best person you can be is important to sustaining happiness in your life. Taking care of your body, mind and over wellbeing is crucial to you being the happiest person you can be.

If you don’t have a consistent type of physical activity in your life, then your mental energy, your emotional energy and your spiritual energy are depleted — in fact they are in the negative.

Your ability to deal with the tough times in your life is seriously compromised when you do not have the physical and emotion stamina to manage these setbacks.

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Practice these 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit.

Final Thoughts

Living a happy resilient life is within your reach.

Having a solid foundation built on the premise of living a happy life is the key ingredient to successfully navigating your way through the tough times in life.

The above 5 strategies will help you on your journey to maintaining happiness in your life.

More About Staying Happy

Featured photo credit: Vince Fleming via unsplash.com

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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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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