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6 Surprising Things That Affect Your Mood

6 Surprising Things That Affect Your Mood

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if everybody was in a good mood all the time? But all sorts of things like insomnia, too much coffee, a nagging doubt or an unresolved argument seems to play havoc with your mood. But there are surprising things that can affect your mood too. Read on to discover if they can help you understand your mood meter.

1. Sleep in total darkness – you will love it

Did you know your wake sleep cycle can be disrupted if you are not sleeping in total darkness? Studies show light pollution coming from neighboring houses, street lighting, and poorly made curtains plus the absence of shutters, can affect sleep quality negatively. It may also be a precursor for depression. Here are some tips to make sure you can sleep in total darkness:

  • Cover up digital clocks and any appliances with a LED
  • Forget about night lights
  • Use blackout curtains over your window
  • Consider using a face-mask if you can’t block light pollution
  • Don’t fall asleep with the light or TV on, if possible

Not just your mood but your overall health can improve. Poor sleep quality has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, aging and mental disorders. This was revealed in the book by T.S. Wiley, called “Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival.”

2. Your posture reveals everything about you

When I was a kid, I remember the words of the song by Val Doonican which went like this: “Walk tall, walk straight and / Look the world right in the eye / She said ‘Son, be a proud man’ / And hold your head up high.” Sound advice and I still remember those words today and I am nearly 70 years of age! Watch the video if you want to see what I grew up on.

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Was Val Doonican’s songwriter on to something? Well, he was, because when you walk confidently and hold your spine correctly, you are immediately conveying to yourself and others around you that you are confident, optimistic and self-assured. I have never met anybody who slouched or sat hunched at his or her desk who was nothing less than miserable, pessimistic and a loser.

Are there any studies to show this is really the case?  Professor Erik Peper at San Francisco State University asked over 100 students to note their energy levels when they slouched down a corridor. They were then asked to skip down the corridor. Of course, they noted in the questionnaires afterwards, they had decreased energy levels when slouching. Now, the next time you attend a job interview, tell the world with your posture you are the right person for the job. You can thank me later!

3. The weather affects your mood… and the stock market 

We all know we feel much happier, healthier and more confident on a sunny day. There are countless studies to show we are essentially a meteoropathic species.

But did you know the sunshine can affect the stock market too? Traders are more bullish and more likely to take calculated risks on a sunny day. This is the result of a study which took 15 years to complete and studied the effects of the weather on stock exchanges in 26 countries!

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4. Don’t wear black, please!

I live in Italy and the most popular color in fashion at the moment is black! Absolutely funereal in a sunny country. But it is associated with an elegant lifestyle, such as ‘black tie’ and ‘black limousine.’ The only relief for me is when I see Indian women in the street with their lovely, brightly-colored saris.

Color affects our mood and there are sound anthropological reasons for this. Our ancestors regarded red as a color of danger in that it represented danger from fire but also heat and energy. Even now, our hearts beat faster when we see red and naturally it has become the color for emergency services, anger and stop signs.

Our language is full of colors as well. Reflect on these examples:

  • I am really browned off
  • This is a golden opportunity
  • He is green with envy
  • She was as white as a sheet
  • Like a red rag to a bull
  • He has a yellow streak
  • He was the black sheep of the family

The psychology of color is a fascinating area and used extensively in marketing. There are many anecdotal references and studies subjective in nature. More rigorous scientific studies are needed here. But, if changing your outfit to a brighter color lifts your mood, go for it.

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5. Use social media sparingly

Have you updated your Facebook today? If you have, you are probably feeling better. Facebook can help reduce loneliness, boost friendship and increase self-esteem. How many times have we laughed at a funny video posted on our Facebook page!

The bad news is when Facebook and other social media start to take over they may result in depression, break up marriages and may be a contributory cause of eating disorders.

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Oscar Wilde

6. Money makes the world go round

Is money the root of all evil? Money can’t buy happiness. Lottery winners are not happier than the rest of us and often encounter endless problems with managing their money and relationships.

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Research now shows when we start to donate to charity and help the needy with cash, we are much happier than when we might spend that money on ourselves. This was described in a recent TED talk by Michael Norton, a Harvard business professor. The other side of the coin is when people get into debt and suffer from depression, they sometimes commit suicide.

The secret is to realize money only temporarily leads to pleasure. The most important thing is to learn how to manage our finances wisely.

“I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living—to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition.” Chuck Feeney

What things really affect your mood?  Let us hear about them in the comments below.

Featured photo credit: If you want a rainbow/Jessica Keating Photography 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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