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10 Scientifically Proven Ways To Stay Happy All The Time

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10 Scientifically Proven Ways To Stay Happy All The Time

How do you stay happy all the time? Is it possible and is there any proof that these ways can work? In this post I want to show you 10 ways that are scientifically proven. If this does not convince you, then I do not know what will!

1. Exercise more

Lots of studies on this one. Exercising releases the good mood endorphins so that you are always in a better mood after a workout or simply a walk to the supermarket. I have never met a person in a bad mood after a workout! But where is the scientific evidence?

The University of Toronto did a great job on this and analyzed no less than 25 research studies.[1] The conclusion was that physical activity can and does help to keep depression at bay.

The best study I know is where three groups of depressed people are put on a regime of anti-depressants, exercise or a combination of the two. No surprise to know that all three groups were happier, but did it last? Six months later, the group who had been treated with exercise only, had a very low relapse rate of 9%. The other two groups had relapsed and how! Their rates were ranging from 38% to 31%, so about a third of them were now depressed again.

2. Positive thinking affects your performance

 “Happiness is the precursor to success.” – Shawn Achor

Sounds like pie in the sky? Well, according to Shawn Achor, if he knows everything about what factors are impinging on your happiness such as stressors, hassles, successes, economic circumstances, relationships and so on, then he can only predict 10% of your long term happiness. The remaining 90% is how you process the world around you. If happiness is on the other side of success, it is unlikely you will get there as you continually strive to get better grades, higher salaries and so on.

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Positive thinking raises energy levels, creativity and productivity by as much as 30%. The secret is to use positive thinking now, rather than when you are rich and famous. Watch the video below for a very entertaining outline of this.

3. Trash your negative thoughts

Some people are overwhelmed by their negative thoughts and they have real problems in getting rid of them. A University of Madrid study found that by actually writing these thoughts down on a piece of paper and then destroying them was effective.[2] They recommended that you either tear them up, throw them in the trash or burn them!

The fact of discarding them physically does help in reducing their toxic effects. Psychologists suggest doing this on a regular basis.

4. Treasure your experiences more than your possessions

Thomas Gilovich, a psychologist at Cornell University has done quite a lot of research as to why it is better to treasure memorable and pleasant experiences rather than the material things we buy. There are many reasons for this as outlined in his study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.[3] Comparing possessions and looking at better objects after purchase can be demoralizing and ruin the initial pleasure we got when purchasing and taking possession of that new car, TV or computer.

But treasuring experiences is not nearly as destructive. They belong to us, they are special and they provide longer lasting happiness. We should always aim to visit a new place or just go trekking. Local authorities should be able to provide the facilities in towns and cities so that people may experience more enjoyable and pleasurable activities, rather than building more shopping malls.

5. Write down why you are grateful

Feeling and thinking about the things you are grateful for as you wake up is a great way to build more happiness.

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Research on our brain shows that we always tend to focus on the negative things of life like those worries, tragedies, failures, and discontent. Negativity is the default position.

“We’ve got this negativity bias that’s a kind of bug in the stone-age brain in the 21st century,” – Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist.

This is why we need to focus on the good and more especially, we need to hone in on what we should be grateful for. There are various ways you can do this. Here are some ideas:

  • When you wake up, remind yourself mentally of three things that you can be grateful for.
  • Some people prefer to write down three things and keep the list to remind themselves every now and again.
  • Use Twitter or Facebook if you feel inclined. Useful to remind your followers that this does actually work.
  • Express gratitude by phoning your significant other or by treating a colleague to coffee for their help with a project or task.
  • Try giving back by helping a person or by volunteering for a few hours a week.

But is there any scientific proof that this actually works? Check out this link to see just some of the numerous studies on gratitude.[4]

6. Practice mindfulness

What does mindfulness mean? It just means that you concentrate and pay full attention to the present moment and accept it in a non-judgmental way. This is now becoming a popular trend in psychology and medicine. When done regularly it can boost mood, reduce stress levels, and lead to a better quality of life.

Focus on the present moment means that you can savor touch, smell and other physical sensations but also happy feelings. Concentrate on the joy they are giving you. It is really effective in forgetting about the past and not fretting about future, fearful scenarios.

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But can this really make us happier and what is the scientific evidence? Watch the video where Harvard researcher Matt Killingsworth explains that we are happier when we are mindful of the moment and the least happy when the mind is wandering all over the place. He has come to this conclusion after studying 15,000 people!

7. Don’t forget your beauty sleep

When you do not get enough sleep, your negativity takes over big time. This was the conclusion researchers came to after several experiments. One of these is particularly interesting. The researchers homed in on the hippocampus which is the part of the brain which processes our positive thoughts. When we are sleep deprived, this function starts to creak and negative thoughts muscle in much more than before.

To illustrate this, researchers asked sleep deprived students to remember a list of words. They were getting a high score on all the negative words (81%) but when it came to the positive ones or neutral ones, they were only getting about 31% of these right. Dr.Robert Stickgold has conducted similar experiments on sleep and memory.[5] Now you know why people are always in a bad mood when they do not get enough sleep.

8. Dedicate a little time to helping others

People buy bigger houses, cars and phones but it does not seem to increase their overall happiness in the long term, although it might cause a brief spike in happiness. That is short lived. Researchers have found that when we dedicate a little time or money to helping others, this has a significant effect on our own happiness.[6]

9. Focus on the life you want to live

“The heart goes where the head takes it, and neither cares much about the whereabouts of the feet.”- Dr. Daniel Gilbert.

We often talk about winning the lottery and where we would go and above all what we would buy. We might even talk about giving to charity. But we never or rarely talk about what our state of mind would be and how much happier and carefree we would be. This is why focusing on priorities to get the life you want to live is so important.

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After all, there is more to life than _______ (fill in the blanks yourself).

10. Focus on your strengths

Are you curious, open-minded or brave? How are you using these strengths to improve your life and that of others? These are key questions but people who exploit their strengths rather than dwelling on their weaknesses are generally much happier.[7]

Being able to realize our full potential through exploiting our strengths is one of the best ways of finding happiness and helping to make the world a better place.

Final thoughts

All these 10 ways are scientifically proven to help you feel happy. If you think your life is full of responsibilities and you’re too late to live a different life, think again! It’s really never too late to live a happier and more fulfilling life:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

Featured photo credit: Portrait of a happy liitle girl close-up via shutterstock.com

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Reference

[1] Psychology Today: 25 Studies Confirm: Exercise Prevents Depression
[2] Universidad Autónoma de Madrid: Treating Thoughts as Material Objects Can Increase or Decrease Their Impact on Evaluation
[3] Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: To Do, to Have, or to Share?
[4] happier human: The Science of Gratitude: More Benefits Than Expected; 26 Studies and Counting
[5] Healthy Sleep: Sleep and Memory
[6] News Harvard: Money spent on others can buy happiness
[7] Tayyab Rashid & Afroze Anjum: 340 Ways to Use VIA Character Strengths

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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