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Last Updated on December 8, 2020

One Simple Way to Appreciate What You Have and Be Happier

One Simple Way to Appreciate What You Have and Be Happier

Everything becomes better when you appreciate what you have.

Practicing the act of appreciation – by choosing to think about what you have instead of what you want – makes life easier, happier, and healthier. The beautiful thing about appreciation is that the effect is immediate, profound, and always benevolent.

Appreciation triggers positive feelings. It is a mental action – an act of cognition – that acknowledges the value of a thing. That thing can be both subjective or objective.

Appreciation is an occurrent action and not a potential that must be possessed. But when practiced repeatedly, it develops a capacity for gratitude that improves your mental and social wellbeing.

You have countless reasons to be grateful and the moment you do, it immediately triggers positive feelings. However, you should view it not as an emotion but rather as a trigger to positive feelings like empathy, joy, and happiness.

For instance, giving thanks to a friend or genuinely appreciating his or her help can also give you a feeling of happiness.[1] These feelings can grow into emotions that create values and virtues over time.

All these originate from the realization that you constantly benefit from 1) the planet’s resources and 2) other people’s knowledge and experiences.

Not being able to express appreciation is one of the causes of ignorance. Taking things for granted is a bad attitude that diminishes the quality of gratitude.

Here is how you can change this.

Appreciation or Gratitude?

Gratitude has many definitions and many philosophers argue about what gratitude is; when the beneficiary is ought to express it and to which degree, and which positive or negative feelings or emotions it may produce.[2]

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There is also a difference between appreciation and gratitude.

Appreciation is more seen as a means of communication. You can fake it, even if you shouldn’t. You can say you appreciate something even if you really don’t.

Gratitude cannot be faked – either you feel grateful or you don’t.

In our context, appreciation is something more superficial – a mental action of a short-term duration – used rather lightly in everyday parlance. We mostly use it out of habit to show politeness but we cannot feel its power profoundly.

Whereas gratitude is a phenomenon of great depth – a power that reaches deep into our hearts.

But it doesn’t help if we lose ourselves into endless analyzations and argumentations about such a complex phenomenon.

We should rather just stick to the fact that gratitude, as a philosophical concept, is subjective and can express its power only to the degree of the individual’s capacity.

This intrinsic capacity cannot be attained through reading academic papers or listening to the personal opinions of some authorities (which both, without doubt, have their fair share in the field). But it is ought to be developed through self-practice, inward observation, and contemplation.

Only then can gratitude express its power effectively.

One Simple Way to Appreciate What You Have and Be Happier

How can we express appreciation and feel deep gratitude about it?

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3 Mental Actions to Prepare Your Mind for Appreciation

You can use the power of appreciation to put an order in your mind – making it organized, focused, and clear.

These three mental actions will improve your intrinsic values and overall mental wellbeing.

1. Use Your Past Instead of Letting It Use You

Before appreciating something, you need to recall a specific thought or event that lies in the past, like “this was a great help from this person”, or “I am so glad it’s sunny today,” and so on.

Focusing on recalling positive memories to express appreciation allows you to use your past in a beneficial, constructive way.

More importantly, with this mental action, you learn how to deal with your past and distinguish useful memories from useless ones and recall only the ones you can appreciate.

2. Recognize and Enjoy

At the very moment of recalling a positive memory, there is the act of cognition taking place. This is the moment where you acknowledge the “thing” as valuable and beneficial, resulting in appreciation.

This recognition fills up your present moment with gratefulness and enjoyment, which at the same time creates a past of positive nature.

This mental action builds a strong mental foundation, where you can achieve mental clarity and eventually recognize and enjoy some of your personal powers.

With this practice, you can express appreciation for literally anything you think is of significance to you. As a result, you develop a greater capacity for gratitude.

3. Build Valuable Prospects

In the moment of being in a grateful state of mind, there is a feeling of calmness, safety, and stability. That moment opens up an opportunity for a greater vision of what is important in your life and motivates you to take a courageous step and build valuable prospects for your future.

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The practice of the three mental actions will aim your thoughts in the right direction and create a constructive mental movement. Your mind gets sharper.

This practice is also great for reducing mental stress quickly and naturally.

Develop Gratitude Through Appreciation

Apply any of your personal truths or facts in the Mental Action #2.

  1. Sit still and concentrate on your body.
  2. Apply Mental Action #2. For example, recognize that you feel no physical pain in your body.
  3. Express appreciation for your health and enjoy that moment.
  4. Dwelling on this recognition, witness your present moment with gratitude and observe its capacity growing within you.

This practice can trigger a number of positive feelings and emotions, which will end up taking you to the state of serenity.

You know this profound state of feeling calm, peaceful, and untroubled – where nothing matters and everything is just fine because all that matters is that peaceful, harmonious state of being?

This state doesn’t require the illusion that everything in life has to be positive and perfect. Harmony is the balance between good and bad.

Capture this moment – this state of serenity, and use it to your advantage.

Everyone’s goal is to remain in the state of serenity for as long as possible, no matter what type of personality one has and what activities one does. The point here is:

  • To recognize the power of gratitude that has brought the serenity upon you.
  • Be grateful for the capability of your recognition.

The benefit is twofold.

Why Appreciation Is Important

To appreciate what you have, like your health, achievements, and so on, is important. But equally important is the fact that genuine appreciation is one of the key qualities for a healthy social life.

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Regardless of your personality type, you can always use appreciation to maintain and improve healthy social relationships.

Expressing appreciation is an important element for enhancing some of the most important social skills like relationship management, respect, and empathy.

As mentioned before, appreciation must be expressed genuinely – it cannot be just a mere appreciation communicated as some rhetoric technique. The mere appreciation might leave an impression, but it can never develop a capacity of gratitude.

Furthermore, when you truly appreciate what you have, you develop your affection towards it at the same time. This, in turn, enhances your empathy and you become more capable of listening to and sharing other people’s feelings. When you find yourself in this empathic state of being, you automatically mitigate the risk to behave inappropriately – a great method to eliminate bad attitude.

On the other hand, you can also appreciate what you don’t have like a disease or other malady. You learn to appreciate that life hasn’t given you anything you can’t handle like some desire or a job you wish for but aren’t ready to commit to yet.

Final Thoughts

I am concluding again the benefits of the first exercise with the three mental actions as shown above:

  1. Use your past in a smart way by finding positive memories and save yourself the dissipation of your mental energy.
  2. Practice your capability of cognition by identifying all possible things to be grateful for and enjoy them to the fullest.
  3. Ignite your imagination by creating your next constructive mental move with enthusiasm and motivation.

Practice this exercise continuously and your mind will sharpen. Remember, expressing appreciation and feeling gratitude is a mental activity – it can be done anywhere, anytime, quickly and efficiently.

You can use it as a sort of prayer – addressing it to a higher power or applying any esoteric meaning that works for you. Once your capacity of gratitude has grown, it’ll become easier for you to find joy even in the smallest things.

You will find a way to appreciate anything that life confronts you with because gratitude can teach you how to count your blessing and not your burdens.[3]

Your life is (or will become) serene. You should appreciate what you have because you have a lot.

More on Appreciation and Gratitude

Featured photo credit: Diego PH via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Giving thanks can make you happier
[2] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Gratitude
[3] Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life

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Marcin Gil

Marcin is a spiritual being just like anyone challenging to uncover what we already have โ€“ spiritual freedom.

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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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