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12 Common Yet Harmful Negative Thoughts Everyone Should Avoid

12 Common Yet Harmful Negative Thoughts Everyone Should Avoid

When going about your day-to-day life, it can be all too easy to fall into bad habits. Possibly one of the most harmful habits is negative thinking patterns. Because your thoughts determine your actions, getting in a rut of negative thinking can have a real effect on your life. While changing habits can be a challenge, getting out of the routine of negative thinking will ultimately make you a more effective person. The following 12 negative thoughts are all too common and easy to fall into, but can also be simple to replace.

“I’ll never be able to do that.”

One very common yet harmful negative thought is the word “never”. When saying we will never accomplish something, what we really mean is it will be difficult to undertake. However, by using the word “never” instead of describing the challenge accurately, we limit how much we can achieve. Instead of telling yourself you can never finish an undertaking, try looking at the situation as outside your grasp now, but one you could eventually work towards.

“They’re way better than me.”

Another very common negative thought we fall into is comparing ourselves to others. Particularly in the world of social media, it’s easy to see the best in others and the worst in ourselves. In fact, we don’t see other people’s bad days or worst qualities, so we should be much easier on ourselves. When you find yourself comparing your accomplishments to others, try to remind yourself that your only competitor in life is you. If you focus on your accomplishments and how you can do a little bit better each day, it won’t matter where others are because you’re making progress.

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“My failures will always outweigh my successes.”

Another negative thought many of us fall victim to is being overly critical with ourselves. In trying to stay motivated or focused, it can be easy to be too hard on ourselves. Much like comparing ourselves to others, if we focus on the negatives, it interferes with our ability to move forward. If you are prone to being overly critical on yourself, try and approach your situation with the same sentiments you would approach a friend in the same circumstances. Where we can be too critical with ourselves, with friends we tend to be more encouraging and forgiving. Approaching the situation as if giving advice to a friend can help you appreciate what you’ve done right and keep yourself going.

“I’ll never forgive him.”

Another easy way to let harmful thoughts get in the way of your life is to hold onto negative feelings or grudges too long. It is important to learn from our mistakes, so you shouldn’t forget, but letting yourself forgive will set you free. Once something has happened, there’s no going back. While you should try and remember what to do better in the future, dwelling on past circumstances only interferes with your ability to find happiness today. If you struggle with letting go, try to remind yourself that the only way negative situations have power over you is if you obsess over them.

“It’s not my fault!”

Another negative thought that’s easy to miss is blaming others. It’s never easy to clean up someone else’s mess, but when we overemphasize what caused the problem, it can impede our ability to overcome it. When you find yourself too concerned with blaming others, try to remember this only takes time away from finding a solution.

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“They’re being rude on purpose.”

Much like blaming others, judging others is a negative thought that holds many of us back. By judging others, we assume that we have all the information about a situation. In reality, there are often many factors and circumstances which we are unaware of. Judging others takes time away from moving forward in life, but also can have a negative impact on relationships and acquaintances. If you are prone to judging others, keep in mind that the only person’s head you are inside of is yours, and others often deal with things much more difficult than we know.

“I should have done it differently.”

Much like failing to let go of negative situations or decisions, being preoccupied with what you should have done can be harmful. When we fixate on the past, it makes it harder for us to move into the future. Not only that, focusing on alternate versions of our options is all guesswork, and there’s no way of telling that another situation would be better. Instead of focusing on what you could’ve done or what you should’ve done, work out what you can do today to better your current state.

“It’s already too late.”

Thinking that we are too late is another negative thought many of us are guilty of. By assuming that our moment has passed, we limit the opportunities we pursue. Rather than focusing on how other people or companies have succeeded where we would like to, try and search for ways that you could make yourself stand out. Often, believing it’s too late prevents the one thing needed most for success: just jumping in.

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“It’s way too hard.”

Another negative thought that makes us sell ourselves short is thinking a problem is too hard. By labeling an endeavor as too hard, we are less likely to take it on. When you find yourself thinking a task is too hard, try to think instead that the challenge is something you’re currently working on.

“They’re talking about me.”

Another negative thought pattern many of us fall into is thinking that we know another person’s thoughts. By assuming that a glance, or nearby whispers, are negative judgments on you, it can be easy to let other’s innocuous actions influence our own. In actuality, nobody knows what someone else is thinking, and presuming another person is judging us is just projecting our own insecurities. If you find yourself assuming other people think negatively of you, just remember that you’re not inside their head, and that same person is likely worried that others are judging them.

“I know this won’t go well.”

By assuming we know the future, we can fall into another negative thought pattern. Much like assuming we know what’s happening in another person’s head, assuming we know how a situation “should” unfold can negatively impact how we go about life. Though many of us feel intuitively like certain things will happen, blaming others or losing your cool when things go poorly, you run the risk of alienating yourself from opportunities that could be solutions.

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“That ruined my whole day.”

All or nothing thinking is another negative thought pattern that can be harmful. By failing to see nuances in life, we risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We all have negative and positive experiences, but if you view every experience as the absolute worst or utter best, it will be difficult to appreciate moments that aren’t perfect, but are still enjoyable. Remember that most experiences are shades of grey, rather than black and white, and it’s up to us to make the most of them.

Featured photo credit: sad eyes/hannah k via flickr.com

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Alicia Prince

A writer, filmmaker, and artist who shares about lifestyle tips and inspirations on Lifehack.

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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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