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13 Simple Habits of Happiness To Change Your Outlook on Life

13 Simple Habits of Happiness To Change Your Outlook on Life

You know how some people seem to be happy no matter what happens to them?  They always have a positive outlook on life. They seem to enjoy things more than you and me, and their relationships with people thrive in a way that we only imagine.

You’ve probably wondered what it is about them that makes happiness so easy for them. Well, it turns out there is no special trick to happiness. Just like anything else, it’s just something that we have to learn to make a habit.

Incorporate the following 13 habits of happiness into your routine and you’ll start to experience joy in your everyday life:

1. Change Your Perspective

There are plenty of reasons to not be happy… Someone cut you off on the way to work. You got a ticket. You made a bad grade or got a less than stellar performance review, etc.

The interesting thing about not feeling happy when these things happen is that you aren’t in control. You have chosen to let external forces dictate how you feel about life.  When you learn that you have control over these things, simply by changing your perspective, the whole world changes.

For example, take the “someone cut you off on the way to work” scenario. By making an excuse for that person, such as that they are rushing to get their pregnant wife to the hospital (or some other emergency), you excuse their wrongdoing and are not negatively affected by it.  Hopefully, they make it to the hospital in time and bring a beautiful child into the world.

It turns out Your Perception IS Your Reality.

2. Get Some Sunlight

Sunlight makes us happy. UV rays hit the skin and the body begins to produce vitamin D ( vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression, among other things).  When the sunlight hits your eyes, it signals to your brain to slow down secretion of melatonin (a hormone that helps you sleep), and increases secretion of serotonin (a hormone associated with happiness and wakefulness).

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What does all of this mean?

Getting more sun will make you happier. If you aren’t getting at least 15 minutes of sun exposure on your skin per day, it’s a good idea to try and get out more. Take a walk during lunch, sit outside for a few minutes instead of watching TV. Make time for it.

3. Make a Life List

Life lists are awesome. They are the theme park of life planning.

Think about the things you want to experience and accomplish before you die. While it may sound like a morbid pursuit, it’s actually life changing and inspirational; especially when you make plans to start checking things off your life list.

4. Learn a New Hobby

Hobbies are fun ways to experience happiness. Whether you love to cook, play games, paint, or anything else, the joy of learning a new hobby is one of the most enjoyable endeavors you can embark upon.

When starting a new hobby, focus on the joy of just experiencing something new. There is something magical about being a “newbie,” because with every experience there is something to be gained.

5. Focus on Appreciation and Gratefulness

Learning to show appreciation and to be grateful for what you have is, in itself, a reward. People who express appreciation and take time to be grateful are happier and have more positive outlooks on life.

Start with a simple experiment. Every night before you go to bed, write down something that happened throughout the day that you are grateful for. It wont take long before that habit changes your entire perspective.

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6. Meditate Regularly

While meditation often gets the reputation of being spiritual and strange to those who don’t partake, it has benefits for practically everyone who gives it a real chance.

I don’t see meditation as spiritual. I see it as therapeutic. I sit quietly for 5-10 minutes per day (I don’t time it‒I just do it), and focus on me. Sometimes, I close my eyes; sometimes I don’t. But I focus on my breathing, I take stock on how I feel (physically and mentally), and I visualize what my day is going to look like. It’s almost like a pre-game ritual.

Try it. You wont be disappointed.

Here’s a guide to help you start meditating: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

7. Embrace Your Fears

Fear is one of the big zappers of happiness. Fear leads us to worry, causing stress and a focus on negativity. One way to stop fear is to begin welcoming it into your life.

Obviously, you don’t want to jump into the deep end on this one, but start small and start tackling your fears. You’ll find yourself stronger, more confident, and happier with every fear tackled.

Here’re some tips to help you: 10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Overcome Your Fear

8. Smile More

Where I live, it’s a common occurrence to exchange smiles with anyone you come into contact with. I’ve traveled enough to know this isn’t a common practice everywhere, but I think it should be.

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Smiling is easy to do, feels good, tells your brain you’re happy, and can be the one happy thing the receiver of your smile sees that day. You can brighten up the lives of people around you with just a flash of your pearly whites.

With that kind of power comes great responsibility. Use it, and use it often!

9. Exercise Regularly

There are numerous benefits to exercise. I’m sure I don’t have to convince you of that — stress relief, physical fitness benefits, etc. But my personal favorite benefit is the release of endorphins. They are natural pain and stress relievers, and they make you feel great.

I didn’t believe in the endorphin rush, or Runner’s High, as it’s commonly referred, until I started running. Now I can’t get enough.

10. Embrace Your Negativity

Some people swallow and repress the negative thoughts and feelings they have, thinking this will somehow make them happier. Unfortunately, it always seems to come back, manifesting in stress, physical pain, or otherwise.

The truth about negativity is that it’s necessary to understand and accept that sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes you will be stressed. Sometimes things will happen that you have no control over.

Understanding and accepting this will reduce the stress you feel from repression, allowing you to get back to the things that make you happy.

Try to understand your negative emotions better: Why Negative Emotions Aren’t That Bad (And How to Handle Them)

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11. Challenge Yourself

One of the greatest things you can do in life is to set the bar high and then achieve. By challenging yourself in ways that are achievable, but require work, you continue to work hard and improve yourself, often times leading to the outcome of being satisfied not with the accomplishment, but with the progress that you’ve made simply by having the goal.

Set challenging goals, and then create realistic plans to achieve them. Every achievement becomes another step on the staircase towards your greatest, happiest self.

12. Volunteer Your Time

There is no quicker way to feel happier than to help someone else, especially someone in need of help.

Volunteering your time is addicting, not just because you’re helping people in need, but because you feel good doing it. It’s a humbling way to honor humanity and be grateful for the blessings that you’ve received.

There’s tons of reasons for the good feelings associated with volunteering, but suffice it to say it’s a no-brainer for both quick and long-term happiness.

13. Posture and Breathing

Sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, and take a deep breath. Do it a few more times. Feel that?

Posture and breathing have a profound effect on your outlook on life. In just a few moments, hunching and taking weak, shallow breaths can sap the life right out of you.

Focus on sitting up with your shoulder back and taking deep breaths as often as possible, and you’ll be happier throughout the day.

Featured photo credit: Suad Kamardeen via unsplash.com

More by this author

Ibrahim Husain

Ibrahim is a management analyst who writes about communication tips 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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