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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

12 Things To Do When You’re Feeling Discouraged

12 Things To Do When You’re Feeling Discouraged

Everyone deals with discouragement at some point in their life.  It’s part of what makes the human experience rich—the highs and the lows.  If we didn’t experience the lows, then we wouldn’t appreciate the highs.

Discouragement, disappointment, failure, and setbacks—these are all things that can help us if we maintain an empowering mindset.  The key to life is to learn from these experiences, and minimize the amount of time that we allow ourselves to stay discouraged. So the next time you start to feel discouragement, here is what you should do:

1. Take the long view.

Discouragement generally occurs when our expectations (what we think should happen) don’t align with reality (what actually happens).  In many cases our expectations are unrealistic, and this often has to do with how long we think things should happen.  If we take a longer view, and relax our expectations a little, it can really help to decrease discouragement.  The reality is that most things that are worthwhile take a lot of effort and time to come to fruition.  So be patient!

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2. Remember, there is no such thing as failure. There is only education.

When we feel like we have failed at something, discouragement often follows.  However, failure doesn’t really exist, except for the meaning that we give it.  If we don’t get the result that we want, when we want it, we just need to take new action.  We can choose, instead of thinking of failure as bad, to think of failure as education, and therefore good.  When we view it this way we realize that failure isn’t something that is bad, or something to be avoided. It is simply feedback. It is simply education. When we think this way we ease discouragement.

3. Stay true to our vision. See it again in our mind.

If we are feeling discouraged, think about our vision.  Think about what we want to create in our life. See it clearly.  Feel what it would feel like if the image came into reality.  What would this mean for us?  How would we feel.  Once we see it, and feel it, we will also feel empowered and our discouragement will dissipate.

4. Don’t let our ego get in the way of our development.

Our ego is often the primary cause of our feelings of disappointment and discouragement.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  We can control our ego.  When we do this, we are on the path of development. When we are internally strong enough to handle constructive criticism, and feedback, we receive the rewards of growth.  Growth leads to happiness.  When we are growing we feel good, and we aren’t discouraged.

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5. Stop comparing ourself to others.  We’re on a unique path.

A sure fire, 100% guaranteed way to get discouraged is to focus on other people in a comparative way.  Here is why: we generally see their victories, successes, and strengths. We see what they have and what we don’t. We see why they are better than us. When we do this we get discouraged and we feel sorry for ourselves. We don’t as easily see their struggles, their fears, their setbacks, and their failures.  So don’t do it.  It isn’t empowering. Don’t compare. We are on a unique path.  It is great to be inspired by another, but if by hearing another’s story, we feel that we are lesser, then we need to just focus on our own path.

6. Detach from rewards, focus on our actions and giving our best work.

If our sole motivation for doing something is the reward that we might get from the action, then we are setting ourselves up for discouragement.  Action should be its own reward.  When it is, we are forever free.  Freedom is at the heart of happiness.  When we don’t need someone else’s praise for doing something, when we don’t need a “carrot” for performing our work, then we are truly free to just focus on our work and make it great.  When we create great work we are happy.

7. Change our “rules” for being happy.

What rule do we have to be happy?  What has to happen for us to feel successful?  Is it in our control?  If it isn’t then we might be setting ourselves up for failure.  By rules I mean the set of circumstances that must be present for us to feel accomplished.  For example if I have a rule that says something has to happen to feel successful, what if I don’t ever reach it? Or even worse, does it mean that I never get to feel successful until I reach it?  That is a sad way to live.  We have to create rules that serve us. We have to live by rules that are within our control.  Here are some of my rules:  I am successful when I grow and improve.  I am successful when I give my very best.

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8. Consider who we are spending time with.

The people who we spend the most time with might be a major contributing factor to feeling discouragement.  This can be a very hard one, especially if those people are family and loved ones. We have a tendency to become who we most frequently associate with, and if we spend all our time with people who are constantly negative, and feeling sorry for themselves, we can be influenced to see life through a similar lens.  So what can we do?  We can’t simply cut loved ones out of our lives. So what we should do is simply expand our social network.  Join a peer group that is positive.  Start to surround ourselves with positive people as a balance.  Over time we will start to take on their mindset and this will help with any feelings of discouragement we may have.

9. Get outside, move and breathe.

Fresh air and sunshine can have an amazing effect on our feelings.  Sometimes when we are feeling down, all that we need to do is simply to go outside and breathe.  Movement and exercise is also a fantastic way to feel better.  Positive emotions can be generated by motion.  So if we start to feel down, take some deep breathes, go outside, feel the fresh air, let the sun hit our face, go for a hike, a walk, a bike ride, a swim, a run, whatever.  We will feel better if we do this.

10. Talk to our mentor.

Our mentor can be a great source of wisdom when we are feeling down.  So when discouragement rears its ugly head, go have a coffee with our mentor.  They will be able to give us wisdom based on experience.  In many cases they will also give us tough love and help us to snap out of it if we are feeling sorry for ourselves.  They will also help us to make a specific plan of action to work our way out of discouragement.

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11. Do a mind map.

A mind map is a simple and empowering exercise that can help trigger our creativity and also pull us out of discouragement.  Take a blank piece of paper or a whiteboard. In the middle write out what it is that we want (our goal).  Then map our ideas that will get us there.  Use arrows originating from our goal and pointing to the various actions that we could take.  Break those actions down into sub actions.  Spend a good hour of so on this activity.  Once we are done we will have a great plan of action.  Then get to work.  Work will break the chains of discouragement better than anything.

12. Go find someone who we can help.

This is a great way to alleviate discouragement.  Go find someone who needs help, and then help them.  It is really that simple.  When we serve others, when we go out of our way to help other people in need, we feel better.  It is impossible to be discouraged when we are giving all our efforts on behalf of another.  Discouragement is a really a self-driven symptom.  We are focusing on ourselves.  That is why we feel bad.  Something isn’t right in “our” life.  However, when we stop thinking about ourselves, and when we direct our attention to another, we feel better.

Featured photo credit: Ethan Sykes via unsplash.com

More by this author

Ryan Clements

A lawyer turned marketing professional, entrepreneur and writer who writes about entrepreneurship, career and personal development.

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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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