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4 Useful Tools No Inspirational Blogger Should Be Without

4 Useful Tools No Inspirational Blogger Should Be Without

Random Giant Hammer (and Good Dog) by Steph L..

    Photo by Steph L.

    Tools. We all have ’em. We all use ’em — or at least try to. It’s one thing to read a glossy list of “44 hot WordPress plugins!” or “25 ways to look for stock photos”, another thing to actually try them all. The best tools are delved into very deeply, and like Thor and his hammer, can at times be inseparable from their wielders. I’ve personally skimmed through 1,000s of tools over the years and regularly use a few dozen.

    But let’s focus further: what if you want to blog about inspirational, motivational, life-bettering stuff — like here on Lifehack? Over the past stretch of weeks, I’ve been refining what I use to craft my posts. Here’s my exceptional faves — only the best of the best — and I’ll share why they work for me. No offhand, brief mentions of “maybe you should try it out…”, just strong votes of confidence from firsthand experience.

    1. Compfight – Find heart-warming pictures faster

    Ah, ’tis a cliche to see radiant suns, wide-eyed babes (of both sorts), cute animals, and compulsory nature scenes preceding an inspirational post. But it isn’t without merit. Many of these pictures are sourced from Flickr’s wealth of Creative Commons-licensable material. What does that often mean? Great imagery for free as long as you provide proper attribution.

    I use Compfight. Why bother, since Flickr has a built-in search? Like the essence of many a “get it done” article, beauty in simplicity. Compfight is minimalist, lean, and search queries are more plentiful-per-page and easier to sort through than Flickr’s own search. As a result, I — and you — can easily click through a great image, drag-and-drop it into your blog editor (most support this), and with proper credit included, enhance your post in seconds.

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    Such as this match for “cat sun baby”, which isn’t quite what I had in mind, but would work well for one of those “How to deal with stress”-type posts:

    Joy Harjo Project with Poem by ittybittiesforyou.

      Photo by ittybittiesforyou

      One downside: Compfight doesn’t save search settings as reliably as I’d like. I asked Ryan (one of the creators) and he said it should, but I keep having to set the options.

      2. Windows Live Writer – Blog better

      That’s really at the core of WLW, you see. Maybe I should’ve posted this first because you can’t blog without a blog editor. Sure, there’s built-in stuff like the TinyMCE-based editor that WordPress uses, and many blog clients/platforms abound. What’s such a big win for WLW? It’s not singular, but I can think of several reasons why it comes ahead, which I’ve written about at length before. To sum up and save you time without bullet points:

      It’s free. It can use your blog’s style. Auto-links save you time. Rich media (videos!) is easy to embed without mangling code. Plug-ins add what you want but don’t have yet.

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      And surprisingly personal support for a Microsoft product — there’s a dev named Joe Cheng who frequently answers questions on the WLW board. He doesn’t seem to be as active recently, but he definitely helped solve some of my problems, enabling me to enjoy WLW more. A fine example of where incidental customer service has resulted in me singing praises many times over.

      Yes, I wish WLW were for Mac too. Yup, it’d benefit from custom fields support. Aye, I wish more blog themes (esp. some video-centric and magazine-format ones) were supported correctly. But WLW is one of those tools that, if it works for you, it works extremely well. And you don’t have to think about it — like they say about great software, it doesn’t get in your way. It lets you get your way. :)

      3. QuotationsBook – Notable quotables indeed

      Need some wisdom of the ages to prop you up? Support a point you’re making? Provide some much-wanted levity? Sound sage by referring to the old masters; there’s quotes all over the Internet and you just need to find them. QuotationsBook makes this very easy with a friendly interface. You can clip-and-save quotes for later retrieval, should you be dry for ideas.

      For example, a casual search for “inspiration” turns up this gem:

      “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” -Frank Tibolt

      Also, while it’s not as elegantly-designed or eminently searchable, WikiQuote is popular with many. There are copious quote-sites on the web, and my point is: get at least 1 fave and keep it close, so you can refer to wise words in seconds as needed. (Just don’t take them out of context.)

      4. popurls – Keep your imagination tank full

      There’s no shortage of inspiration on the Internet — that’s part of what’s so daunting, finding focus amidst the many to create your unique take. popurls is one of the original single-page aggregators, and among the best designed: it does many things well, mostly highlighting notable headlines from many top social media sites (including visual content blocks for Flickr, YouTube, and others), enabling you to rapidly scan for stories to pick up on. Many of them are, of course, related to life improvement.

      popurls will help you discover favorite new feeds to subscribe to, get early dibs on Internet memes spreading like wildfire, and keep you entertained. What’s more, it’s got a fair degree of customization, and if you login, you’ll see Recommended stories for your tastes — it doesn’t work exceptionally well yet, but it’s promising.

      I surf popurls daily so I’m both well-informed and laughing a lot. If that isn’t inspiration in itself, I don’t know what is.

      What are your essential inspirational tools?

      Before we close today, here is a gratuitous picture of a girl wearing rainbow arm-socks and her cat. It’s the one opportunity I’ll have to do such a thing:

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        Photo by Hayley_Bouchard

        Was that purely devoid of meaning? Not quite. It generated an emotional reaction, didn’t it? Which brings me to this:

        As obvious as water is wet, each of us has our own style. But there are many shared tastes, and being a passionate advocate for the tools we hold dear — as I do for the above — can benefit others greatly, appropriately inspiring your fellow lifehack devotees in the process.

        If you haven’t heard of some or all of the above and I’ve introduced you to something new which is useful + fun, bravo! If you know all the names but haven’t tried them, I encourage you to — and I only say this from personal experience. My general philosophy with tools is to go through as many as you’re interested in, and the ones which are truly useful will stick with you in the long-term.

        Let me know what your inspiration indispensables are in da comments!

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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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