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3 Shocking Benefits of Negative Thinking

3 Shocking Benefits of Negative Thinking

Most of our actions in life have trade-offs. If we eat that piece of cake, we might see it later around our waistline. If we work overtime, we’ll see a positive outcome on our bank statement but miss time at home with loved ones.

Life is full of trade-offs.

Which made me wonder: is there always this trade-off? And is it possible to have too much positive thinking in our lives? Is it possible that personal development’s panacea that ails us can actually have a toxic effect if used in excess. After all, it’s said that it’s the dose that makes the poison.

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Looking more closely, I realized that too much positivity can be a dangerous thing. Take people who suffer from mania and believe they’re kings of the world, that they can fly, or possess super powers. Individuals experiencing such overwhelming positivity often become a danger to themselves as they are incapable of assessing risk.

This led me to an interesting conclusion: if we can have too much positivity, then on the flip side, there must be advantages to negative thinking. In other words: There must be some situations in which negative thinking helps us reach a positive outcome. It’s productive. It’s beneficial. Here are 3 ways I’ve discovered it to be true.

1. We Are Limited

We are often told, starting from a very young age, that we can become whatever we want — that we can do and have whatever it is our hearts desire. This, combined with nearly limitless options can leave even the most successful individuals feeling like they haven’t accomplished enough. By acknowledging or setting limitations on ourselves, we eliminate the vast majority of options that are only serving to steal our energy and attention.

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For instance, it is a waste of time and energy for me to dream about becoming a professional basketball player. I’m 25, 5’11, with no experience outside of the occasional pickup game, and I don’t particularly enjoy the sport. This option is not a good match for my skills or interests. In life, most of our options aren’t good matches for our skills or interests, for our unique personalities and passions.

While we often assume that having more choices is good, what we truly want are a few good options, not a limitless number of uncertain ones. By defining what we cannot or will not do, we enable ourselves to focus on the few options that will be meaningful to us.

2. Lowering Our Expectations

Another problem with being conditioned to believe that we can be, do and have anything we want is that this thinking inflates our expectations to unrealistic levels and often endows us with a sense of entitlement. To complicate matters, we often hinge our happiness on these external events – whether or not the world conforms to our expectations. But the universe doesn’t owe us anything, and unrealistically high expectations are rarely met.

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This is a sure path towards disappointment. It’s more effective to lower our expectations – if not eliminate them completely. If we’re not basing our happiness on whether or not our expectations are met, then we’ve eliminated one of our biggest sources of unhappiness and given ourselves the opportunity to be content where we are right now.

It’s one thing to aspire to do, or be, or have great things. It’s healthy to dream big and aim high. If we can do so without expecting anything, then we’ll be able to enjoy the journey, as well as whatever results may or may not come.

3. Accurate Risk Assessment

Remember our manic friends? Thinking that they can fly is not the only hazard of being overly optimistic. Incurably positive thinking affects all types of risk assessment. Taking calculated risks is one of the best ways to grow as individuals and to make breakthroughs in our lives. Taking risks because we don’t realize there are risks is simply dangerous. Take, for instance, engaging in unprotected sex, playing the stock market, and casino gambling.

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While it’s impossible to say with certainty that our attitude has no influence over the outcomes in these scenarios, it would be foolish to make positive thoughts to our success strategies. And this should apply to all areas of our lives: having a realistic understanding of the situations we find ourselves in is the most important thing. Then, we can be sure that our positive thinking isn’t fantasy, and it can be used to give us direction and inspiration. Otherwise we may eventually find ourselves flying without a net – and that’s not a recipe for happiness.

Conclusion

These thoughts that, at first glance, seem to be negative, really aren’t once we take the time to internalize them. They’re about realism. Realism isn’t positive or negative, and by having an accurate picture of reality we can make better life decisions.

And in that sense these negative thoughts are most certainly positive.

For more interesting insights into human experience check out these 

Featured photo credit: http://www.morguefile.com/creative/hotblack via cdn.morguefile.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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