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How to Stop Being Sad and Start Feeling Happy

How to Stop Being Sad and Start Feeling Happy

We live in a society where it is important to fit in. Leading a positive and happy life is highly valued and feeling sad or “blue” about life is not so valued. As a result, we are constantly trying to always be positive and happy. In our minds there is no room for sadness.

This is not a realistic way to live life.

Telling yourself to be positive is no help to you because your sadness when it hits you has a life of its own. Keeping up an impression of positivity and happiness when you are feeling sad is draining and hard work. If anything this charade will intensify your feelings of sadness, and you will struggle to find the pathway that will lead you to living a happy, resilient life.

I believe that sadness is a base line feeling that feeds into all of our other feelings such as anger, frustration and fear. The deeper we bury the feeling of sadness the harder it is to feel happy.

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.” Carl Jung

The 5 key strategies below are practical ways for you to successfully manage sadness in your life so you that can have a life that flows with happiness.

1. Recognize Your Type of Sadness

There are 3 types of sadness that most of us fall into:

Short-Term Sadness

This is a passing mood that may last anything from a day to a week. Sometimes there is a reason for this feeling but sometimes there is not.

Generally lack of sleep, no physical activity and excess stress are associated with this sadness.

The best approach to dealing with this sadness is to lower your stress level by having a few nights of great sleep, getting active by doing some exercise and looking at ways to break up your routine.

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Pampering your self, going for a massage, reducing alcohol intake and eating healthy food are effective ways to manage short-term sadness.

Trigger Sadness

This feeling of sadness has been activated as a result of a traumatic event that has happened to you, such as the death of someone close to you, losing your job, divorce or financial ruin.

This feeling of sadness can make you feel helpless and vulnerable and it does not go away overnight. The key to managing trigger sadness is looking for ways to support you to process these feelings and not bury them.

One way for you to manage these deep feelings of sadness is to talk about and share your feelings with someone who can console you, support you and counsel you. Having a supportive network of family and friends is key to you managing your feelings of sadness.

It is also wise to get professional support such as a councillor or therapist to guide you through practical steps to processing your feelings of sadness.

Along with these key actions and actively working on reducing the general stress levels in your life, you will find that after a period of 3 to 6 months, you will be back at a baseline feeling of happiness. This is where you start to rebuild and strengthen your foundations in life – your physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

Depression

If you feel sad, hopeless, helpless, unable to eat or sleep and have no energy for a period of time of more than one month or two, then you are likely to feeling depressed.

Depression is usually set off as a result of event that usually you would cope with. However, for some reason, your coping mechanism has broken down.

Depression is complicated and it can vary from person to person. If you have these feelings, then it is wise that you seek the advice of a doctor.

The strategies presented in the rest of this article can along with specialist support enable you to live a happy fulfilled life.

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2. Identify What Happiness Means To You

“Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.”  — Mary Anne Roadacher-Hershey

Happiness is the only cure for sadness. There is no other cure that works better. It sounds so easy to say however it is not so easy to achieve.

At its most basic level, happiness is a feeling that comes about as a result of us doing things in our lives that we love to do.

So if we are feeling sad, then we should take action and activities that brings a joy such as catching up with a friend, going for a walk, getting a massage, goimg out to dinner, going to the movies, or hiding away to read a good book. The list of activities that we can do that make us feel happy is extensive.

The first thing you need to do is identify what activities that you do or would like to do that bring you joy and make you feel happy.

When we feel sad, we are more likely to want to withdraw and not do anything. We tend to disengage from everything that is going on around us.

The only way we can start to feel happy is to take action and start doing things.

We can never avoid the feelings of sadness, hurt or disappointment. However, we can deal with them in constructive ways that will help avoid excessive suffering.

It is so important to know what happiness means to you because when you know this, you will have meaning and purpose in your life. This is what brings to your life the feeling of happiness and the experiences of joy.

3. Commit To Practising These 3 Actions of Happiness Daily

When you are feeling sad, you are more likely to want to avoid people.

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These 3 actions of happiness are very practical ways in which you take action to move away from feeling sad to feeling more joyous. All it takes is for you make a choice, take action and commit to consistently doing these actions of happiness.

Gratitude

Expressing gratitude on a daily basis and actively appreciating those people in your life who are important to you are very simple yet, powerful actions that will take you from a place of sadness to a more joyful place.

Acceptance

Accepting the things that you cannot change and acting on the things that you can change are key to you finding joy and peace in your life. Once you acknowledge the reality of your situation, you can then plan to take effective action that will enable you to move forward to a better place in your life.

Acts of Kindness

When you are feeling sad, your focus is very inward at self. Helping others is a great way to feel better about you. It is often the spontaneous acts of kindness that give us the most joy.

The more we help others and the more we interact and engage with people the less we tend to withdraw and focus inwardly on our feelings of sadness.

Happiness and joy are external feelings that need to be shared with others and an act of kindness is an effective way for us to share and feel joy with others.

4. Commit To Cultivating Your Personal Wellbeing

When you accept sadness in your life, your personal wellbeing will suffer.

Happiness is more than a feeling; it is a longer lasting state that is called your wellbeing. Your wellbeing encompasses your state of your mind, body and emotions.

When all is in balance, then you will experience contentment and peace of mind. You are more emotionally agile and physically resilient; and therefore more effective at managing the challenges that life will throw at you.

Commit to making your wellbeing your top priority in your life. When you do this you become more effective at managing sadness in your life.

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5. Eliminate The Phrase – I Will Be Happy When…..

Sudden happiness does not exist and the phrase “I will be happy when…” indicates that happiness comes when you get what it is you believe will make you happy.

Many people think that if they win the Lottery, then they will be happy – this is not true. In a consumer driven society of today, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing your happiness to the material gains and success of others.

Be careful that you don’t equate happiness with momentary pleasure because if you do, you will eventually feel conflicted and discontent. It is these feelings will take you to a place of sadness.

Final Thoughts

Focus on looking for ways where you create a life where happiness is a feeling that you have total responsibility for – no one else, just you.

When you have created a life where you have attained this, then the phrase “I will be happy when…” is eliminated from your vocabulary.

How sad we feel and the reasons why we feel sad is different for everyone. The one thing we all have in common however, is that it is impossible for us to go from feeling sad to feeling happy instantly.

The above five strategies are practical ways that support you to manage your feelings of sadness where you are in control and empowered to choose to how you want to feel and how you want to live your life. Let’s hope you choose – happiness.

“If you look to others for fulfilment, you will never be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you.” — Lao Tzu

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Featured photo credit: Brittani Burns 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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