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5 Reasons to Clear Mental Clutter Periodically

5 Reasons to Clear Mental Clutter Periodically

Of course you will clear your desk, room and garage regularly of clutter. The space you free up is sometimes astonishing and you wonder how on Earth you actually put up with it. The mental clutter and chaos in our minds is not dissimilar. Once we manage to do a mental clear out, we are amazed at the liberating effect and it really can help us to live happier and more fulfilled lives. Here are 5 reasons to clear all the mental clutter at regular intervals and some tips on how to actually do it.

1. You need to detox.

There are too many things to look after and being super connected with a smartphone just aggravates the situation. We will look at methods of actually clearing it out but first you should consider how physical exercise will help you because the mind and body are inextricably linked. If you read Daniel Amen’s book called Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, you will realize that exercise, proper diet, and restful sleep will help you detox. Once you feel better physically, the mental clutter will begin to clear away. This is so liberating.

2. You need to let go of negative experiences.

Most experts call this closure. It means clearing out the grief, the resentment and the regrets about wrong decisions. These are occupying too much space and they are preventing you from concentrating on new projects and achieving objectives. You will need time for healing after a bereavement. Learn to let it go and walk through the pain. Simple meditation techniques are a great way to help the transition to positivity and hope.

3. You need to get your attention back.

Daylight robbery! This is what the Internet and the smartphones do with our attention. They steal it all the time. We are so districted that it becomes impossible to give projects and relationships our undivided attention. Distractions are useless clutter and compete shamelessly for our focus. These distractions are destructive in that they murder creativity and problem solving. They have been called continuous partial attention by one psychologist. You really have to make a conscious effort not to let them take over.

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4. You need to let go of fears and worries.

These are great busybodies. The ‘what ifs’ are always present. The fears mount up. Yesterday, the train stopped on a high bridge over the motorway and the lightning was scary. I could not clear my mind of what might happen. Nothing did and I regretted that I was not disciplined or mindful enough to dismiss those stupid fears. Fear and anxiety are toxic and they cannot affect the outcome in any way. One expert believes that we can thrash up to 30% of our worries.

“How would your life be different if…You stopped worrying about things you can’t control and started focusing on the things you can? Let today be the day…You free yourself from fruitless worry, seize the day and take effective action on things you can change.”

—Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

5. You are in fight-or-flight mode.

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.”

—Mark Twain

All those troubles, problems and regrets are taking up an enormous amount of space. You are in a constant state of fight-or-flight. When you are in this mode you are always ready for emergencies so blood pressure and stress levels rise. Once you manage to get this into perspective, you will be able to “rest and digest” mentally which can help limit the damage and steer you towards mindfulness.

Tips to help you de-clutter your mind.

1. Try deep breathing.

Did you know that Navy Seals have to use this technique to help them cope with a stressful situation? They are told to use the STOP technique. ‘S’ is to stop what they are doing. ‘T’ stands for taking a deep breath, ‘O’ is for observing what is going on around them and ‘P’ stands for proceed.

“We win in our mind before we enter the battlefield.”

—Navy Seals motto

2. Become aware of the present.

As we said above, worries are pretty useless pieces of baggage and will have no effect whatsoever on the outcome. The best way to get a clear, calm and alert mind is to practise mindfulness or present moment awareness. One effective method is to give your mind the job as gatekeeper and tell it that certain thoughts are not to be let in. You can repeat the mantra “Now is the time to be aware of the present moment. I let go of the past and the future.” Then focus on sounds, bodily sensations and thoughts so that your mind is becoming more disciplined and tidier. As you do this you will become aware of your deeper breathing which is essential. Many people find great benefit in doing yoga and meditation in various forms to achieve this mental de-cluttering.

3. Get rid of regret.

But how do you do this? The US Army has one of the answers in that it teaches its soldiers to do the After Action Review. It is a simple technique to help them learn from the past mistakes and resolve to do it better the next time. Regret is useless so it is booted out pretty fast. The soldiers ask themselves about what was supposed to happen, what actually happened and then they ask how they would do it differently the next time.

4. Make a list.

This is a very important task. You have to make a list of all the situations and relationships which are occupying your mind with negative and useless thoughts. They no longer bring you happiness or contentment. As you look at the list, think of how you can make stronger boundaries in relationships. You may have to have a conversation with someone or you may actually have to de-clutter a physical space to help you gain mental clarity. It is also wise to prioritize certain items as they will need more systematic sweeping. Many of the items on your list can be crossed off as unimportant and they can be dealt with quickly. Promise yourself to come back in a month’s time and see what progress you have made.

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5. Find time for unconscious thought.

Do you have an important decision to make or are you tempted to call in a colleague for a showdown? The best way to clear the decks is to give yourself time. Take time out and also make sure you do something completely different before jumping in head first. When you are in the gym, you start the process of what is known as unconscious thought. Your best ideas come from these moments. It also brings to the surface new approaches, techniques and ideas.

Now, how about some mental tidying up every now and again? Time you got back on track so your priorities are at the top of the list again and that you can think clearly without all that clutter.

Featured photo credit: 301/366: Headache by Gonzalo Malpartida via Flickr via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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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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