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10 Questions To Ask Yourself To Stay Positive When Facing Difficulties

10 Questions To Ask Yourself To Stay Positive When Facing Difficulties

Everyone faces difficulties from time to time.  It’s a natural part of the cycle of life.  Just like we can’t really know hot without knowing cold, we can’t really know the good times if we don’t know bad times.  Sometimes the difficulties we face in life come from situations out of our control, and other times our difficulties are a direct consequence of the decisions we make.

In life, we cannot change events or their outcome.  We can, however, choose the emotion and meaning we attach to them.  It’s like the saying goes “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react”.  Our brains are designed to store information and then, at every single second of every day, when new information is received, our brains search for a reference memory to lay the foundation for our response.  Think about it, this is why if you have a bad experience on a roller coaster or eating a certain food, for the rest of your life you have an automatic impulse reaction whenever you come across them.

We have to retrain ourselves to see the positive in even the most challenging times.

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Am I Still Breathing?

Sometimes the best we can do is breathe.  During overwhelmingly difficult times, our stress levels rise, our breathing gets shallow, and our body’s natural rhythm gets all out of whack.  At these times it’s essential to stop and ask yourself, ‘am I breathing?’.  If you are then, hey, you live to fight another day.  If you find yourself highly stressed out, take 10 minutes, find a quiet space, and just breathe deeply.  Diaphragmayic breathing has been shown to lower stress levels and helps relax your automatic nervous system.  One of the keys to staying positive is to be relaxed, and making sure you’re breathing correctly is the best way to start.

What Is My Part In This?

Notice this said your ‘part’, not your ‘fault’.  There’s a huge distinction in these two words.  One is acknowledging and accepting your responsibility for your current situation, the other is self-defeating and simply assigns blame.  Focusing on your part instead of just casting blame reduces the challenge you’re facing to a more manageable size.

What Is In My Control?

When life feels completely overwhelming, we often lose sight of those things we can change.  Assess your situation honestly, and look for those things you can control.  This will help you to feel more centered, more focused, and assist you in being able to tackle the challenge.

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What Is Out Of My Control?

Sometimes there’s things we just cannot control.  Whether it’s other people, mother nature, or just plain bad timing, no matter how much we want to, we cannot control everything.  Take time to look at your difficulty, identify the things that are out of your control, and then let them go.  Too often we view the totality of our difficulties and it is overwhelming.  Being able to segregate what you can and cannot control makes the problem smaller, your stress levels lower, and often the path to the solution much clearer.

What Is My Emotional State?

Making decisions when we’re overcome with the emotions that are inherent in difficult times is about the worst thing we can do.  We’re more likely to make poor choices when we’re in the wrong emotional state.  Being able to recognize that we’re not ‘of our right mind’ in the middle of our trials allows us to stop, breathe, and get ourselves in a better emotional state, allowing us to make better decisions.  When we make better decisions, we’re more likely to feel better about our circumstances because it gives us a sense of empowerment.

What Is The Most Important Thing I Can Do Right Now?

Sometimes the best thing we can do is nothing.  Sometimes the best thing we can do is make a phone call.  Focusing on and doing the best thing you can do right now when in the midst of difficult times helps center you and relax your nervous system.  It also increases our confidence in ourselves that yes, we can weather this storm.  Progress is progress, no matter how small, and progress towards resolving a difficult situation will boost your self-esteem.

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What Can I Learn From This?

With every difficulty comes a lesson.  As crazy as it sounds, if we can see even the smallest lesson, the smallest purpose in the trial we’re facing, it gives it positive value.  It also gives us an outcome to move towards, whether it’s improved health, more stability in finances, or fixing a broken relationship.  Suffering without purpose leads to a feeling of helplessness.  Shift your belief from “Why me?” to “What can I learn from this?” turns the challenge from just a random happenstance of bad luck into a problem to be solved.

Am I Taking Care Of Myself?

There’s an abundance of evidence that stress wreaks havoc on our physical health.  There’s also abundant evidence that our physical health directly impacts our mental health.  When challenges arise, the most common things we do are eat less, sleep less, and get less physical activity.  Overwhelming challenges have a tendency to cause us to completely shut down.  Don’t.  Sacrificing your physical health isn’t going to make the challenge go away any faster and may actually make the challenge worse because now you’re a physical wreck.  Maintain a normal sleep schedule.  Eat healthy.  Stay hydrated.  Get some physical activity.  Maintaining your physical state is a key to maintaining your mental and emotional states.

What Are My Choices?

Make a list.  Write them down.  Weigh the pros and cons.  Creating a list of choices brings clarity to the path we need to take to overcome the difficulty.  It also helps us realize that we actually have choices, which is a big thing when we feel powerless.

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Will This Matter 5 Years From Now?

Don’t sweat the small stuff… and really, 95% of our difficulties are all small stuff.  Looking into the future and thinking about whether or not the current difficulty will matter 5 years from now often brings it into perspective.  We’re naturally oriented to turn molehills into mountains and imagine the worst possible outcome to every challenge.  If you’re having difficulty with this, try to think of a difficult time you faced 5 years ago that you thought was the ‘end of the world’.  Very few difficulties have the kind of impact that resonates through time.  Take heart and have faith that what you are facing now isn’t as bad as you’re imagining it to be.

Challenges and difficulties are a natural part of life.  We can stop from feeling overwhelmed by finding and focusing on the positive in our lives.

Featured photo credit: Geralt via pixabay.com

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Christian Salafia

Rocket-scientist, Nuclear Engineer, Theologian, and creator of the TransformRadio podcast

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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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