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10 Things About Swimming That You Can Apply to Your Life

10 Things About Swimming That You Can Apply to Your Life

Swimming. From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. It took me 27 years of my life to decide to learn to swim. A blatant candid confession, it’s more than the fear of the water (yes it still persists), I couldn’t help ogling at those darned women and men with their perfectly sculpted bodies in beach wear, sand in the hair and long ,unending legs that lead to eternity. And as if all these were not enough to haunt me, there was more. Life brought me to Sweden where kids learn to swim before they actually talk, I mean fluently. All of a sudden, my education, city life began to seem small as I had not yet learned one of the basic lessons of life. So, I packed my newly acquired black swim suit and made a dash to learn one of the important lessons of my life, intensively for 10 lessons. I emerged from the waters, a tad wiser and a swimmer.

Swimming taught me:

1. To be at ease.

Clean blue water lures you, invites you and engulfs you. When I started taking lessons, I would step into the pool, trembling, shaking a bit wondering when will the ordeal end. Damn you, Michael Phelps of the world!  But then, I had two smiling angels, the trainers who were beside me, announce, “we will just feel it, feel the water through our head and body.” Quite a relief. We were asked to dip our heads in water for two seconds and speak out our names. Leg movements were shown and then we were done for the day.

Simple, Just the way life is. Anything initially seems gawky and odd, a job, a relationship or running but then after few weeks, you don’t remember why were you  awkward in the first place.

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2. To let it hurt.

I was having the time of my life. I was in the water, flapping my fins, spluttering like a fish, blue skies everywhere and blue water. Hastily I was woken up by the scorching sun on my face.Oh well; it was a “wet” dream!. Instead I woke up to a sore body, pain in the thighs and heaviness in the head. Later, when I entered the water, all my pains were washed away instantly. Then I learned, my muscles had never been stretched that way before

It’s the same about being acclimatized to things like in life. A heartbreak, passing of loved one, losing a job initially seems like the end of the world, but it’s going to be OK with time.

3. To hang on and float.

Don’t Swim. Just float. Lie down on the water. It is just water. Similarly, life is about keeping yourself afloat. Use your support systems. You won’t drown. Trust yourself and let it flow.

4. To take baby steps.

There is nobody as brave as a baby taking her first non-stop five steps alone from its parent’s hands. We all have been there, haven’t we? Practice till you get better and better but slowly. Of course, jitters happen, but you can’t learn or do everything in one go.

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It has been said a habit takes about three weeks to develop. So it is.The way you go slow in life takes you places.

5. To give yourself some air.

Always concentrate on how far you’ve come, rather than how far you have left to go. I was doing just OK, but I was not happy with how far I had come from the day I entered the pool. In this skewed perception of my accomplishments, I discounted my efforts and belittled myself! “Give yourself some credit,” my trainer exclaimed. Finally, I realized I had focused on what I had not done, instead of what I had achieved.

In life,  we often shave away our self-confidence by ruminating on our shortcomings, unable to trust in our own abilities. Similarly, recognizing what we’re doing right doesn’t mean we become complacent and stop striving for improvement.

6.To trust yourself but not to push it.

After the initial slips, scares, water in your nose, swallowing it up accidentally, floating and pushing the water with your legs, you can get exasperated. You get frustrated seeing others perform, over-perform and try to excel. Even after a fit of rage you still are who you are. Did the thoughts help? No, it made you feel worse.

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Remember those times that your friends got themselves new bike or a dress and you waited for your job. Sometimes you are going to do or get things at a different speed than other people. You can’t always be the first person to do or get something. Sometimes, somethings will take you longer. And that’s OK.

7.To swim like nobody is watching and to live life the same way.

Sometimes I felt the trainers eyes ogling me or other group members watching when I was not able to stretch my legs? Or I thought about drowning or my simple swimwear. After a while, I realized that I wasted 10 minutes out of the hour in the pool with useless thoughts.

Close your eyes take a deep breath, smile and swim, with all your flaws, awkwardness and beauty. What others think of you should not govern you or the way you lead your life, let alone swimming.

8. To learn it when you are on your own.

There’s an old adage: “The sensation of drowning reminds you of everything you ever knew about swimming.” The real test is the first time on your own. No support system, no trainer to watch you like a hawk – you are on your own.You may cough, take in too much water, freak out, panic, or even curse like a maniac initially.Then after your panic has died down, you just dive in and take the plunge .

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In life, you learn most things while you are struggling with day to day things outside of the comfort of your own home. Remember the time, you were finding a place and asked a passerby for directions and it didn’t help you much. Then, finally you opened up your own mind (or Google maps) and you found your way!

9. To let it go.

“I demolish my bridges behind me…then there is no choice but to move forward.” – Fridtjof Nansen

With each step that you stretch ahead in the water, leave one thing that you hate behind. Don’t drown yourself but drown your inner demons, pasts and the old monkey in your closet. Just let it go and move forward. There is so much more to be accomplished and to be seen.

10.To stretch beyond your limits.

Kick some ass! Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius. With each lesson that ends, you learn something new and the next day you are hungry for more.You will never know how much you can stretch if you just don’t try. So shed your inhibitions, swim, and fly beyond your horizons.

This life is like a swimming pool. You dive into the water, but you can’t see how deep it is. It is remarkable how much analogy in life is related to swimming. The calm before the storm. Swim against the tide. Swimming upstream. Up a creek without a paddle. In and out of the swim of things. Sink or swim. Be in the swim of things.

Featured photo credit: Synchronized swimming via bhmpics.com

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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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