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5 Ways to Bring Happiness into Your Life

5 Ways to Bring Happiness into Your Life

“There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh was right. You don’t have to wait to be happy in order to feel happy. There are five things you can do now to bring happy into your life. These five tips are intended to be physical and practical ways to change your state so that you physically and emotionally turn your “happy” on.

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1.  Move Your Body

Exercise is one of the fastest ways to joy. When you move your body you change your state. You go from down and lethargic to feeling more energetic, masterful, and fulfilled. The reason is both physiological and psychological. Not only does exercise burn off cortisol (the stress hormone), and studies have shown that exercise can release endorphins (feel-good chemicals, the commonly referred to “runners’ high”), but when you exercise you also feel a sense of accomplishment, known as self efficacy. There’s a psycho-social hypotheses called the mastery hypothesis that tells us that our mood improves when engaging in difficult and significant work. Thus, on both a psychological and physiological level, exercise will lift your mood, and as a bonus side effect you’ll be healthier too!

2. Fake it!

Seriously, the next time you’re down, put down the self-help book and simply smile. Make ridiculous faces, and even say the words “Ha Ha”. Did you know there is a form of yoga called laughter yoga, that uplifts the spirit? The class is centered around saying things like “Ha Ha, Ho Ho, Hee Hee”, and before you know it the whole room is howling. You can take this strategy and employ it in your own living room. Try it right now, and see how your state changes. Happiness is often thought of as an emotion, yet our physiological state is inextricably linked with our emotional state. The moment we change what our physical body is doing, our emotions follow. There’s been plenty of research to back up these claims, but better than science is your own scientific experiment! Try it now, and see how you feel. Put on a smile that includes your eyes smiling, and see if it influences your feelings.

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3. Go Play

Life can be serious. From horrific television news stories, to deadlines, family responsibilities, and more, it’s so vital to remember to play. Kids do it all the time, and often with big smiles on their faces. So whether your form of play is taking a hike, reading a magazine, playing a sport, or literally heading over to some swings in a park and playing like a kid, play is on of the fastest ways to get in touch with our inner happy. Taking the time to go have fun, and bring some joy in your life should be part of your weekly regime. Even little doses of fun make all the difference. If it’s been awhile since you went out to play and have some fun, set up a play date now. Think of an activity you have been longing to partake in, and pencil it into your calendar.

4. Watch Something Funny

Alright, so I am all for practicing presence and meditation, but sometimes, if you’re feeling totally bummed out, meditation may not be the trick you seek. Did you know that consciously choosing to distract yourself can be a healthy coping mechanism? Now, if you are constantly living in busyness and distraction, this is not a healthy way to cope. But, consciously choosing to engage in something to get your mind off something troubling can be a healthy way to shift your attention. You can easily find thousands of hilarious comedic routines on YouTube, or the Comedy Network. Sometimes taking a time out, such as watching something that gives you a good laugh, is a healthy way to let go of the sadness and stress. And often it gives us perspective so that we can deal with what ails us in a clearer way.

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5. Forget Your Schedule… For an Hour!

If you’re feeling stressed and caged in by your heavy duty never ending to-do list, it’s time to engage in what I call the “Forget Your Schedule” practice.

The truth is, if you don’t get everything done on your list, life will go on. Things won’t fall apart. It will be OK. Besides, feeling stressed and overwhelmed can seriously slow us down. By taking an hour to forget your chores and to-do-list, you often gain perspective that half of those things you thought you had to do are either unnecessary or you find a better way to get them done (which sometimes includes delegating tasks to others). By taking some time to let yourself be free, you get to finally live in the moment. When you are living in the moment, away from the giant to-do list and never ending stress (which leads to unhappiness), you tap into freedom which leads to space, possibility and happiness.

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I hope these tips have been practical and that you will implement them into your life. Now it’s your turn, what’s your best tip to shifting your state and getting your happy on?

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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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