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7 Scientific Self-Help Books That Will Transform Your Life

7 Scientific Self-Help Books That Will Transform Your Life

I’m one of those weirdos that prefers reading non-fiction books over fiction books any day of the week — especially when it comes to books about leadership, success and self-help. It’s just my thing. My library is filled with books on how to build and sustain the habits necessary to live the happiest, healthiest, and wealthiest way of life I’m capable of living. And I can tell you without a shadow of doubt that reading these self-help books over the years has definitely transformed my life for the better… But you know what? Every now and then, I’d find myself in the middle of reading one of these books only to realize that it’s filled with nothing more than a bunch of pseudo-science mumbo jumbo disguised as the truth.

And quite frankly, I found this incredibly disturbing. Which is why I decided to put together this list of the 7 scientific self-help books that you can use to transform your life without worrying about whether what you’re reading is fact or fiction. Every book on this list contains information that is researched extensively and exhaustively beyond that of most every other book in the self-help genre. So, are you ready? Let’s dive in.

#1. Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

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psycho-cybernetics

    The original scientific self-help book, written by a plastic surgeon who decided that he wanted to go deeper than aesthetics — he wanted to change people’s lives from the inside-out. Pick this one up for a primer on self-image psychology. Buy the book here.

    #2. Waking Up by Sam Harris

    samharris_wakingup

      If you’re curious about spirituality, but prefer not to attach your identity to any specific set of religious beliefs, then the scientific approach to spirituality set forth by neuroscientist Sam Harris in Waking Up could be just what you’ve been looking for. Buy the book here.

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      #3. The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

      the-power-of-full-engagement

        The big idea behind this book is that our approach to stress management is all wrong — it’s not about managing our time — it’s about managing our energy. Once we can do that, we can begin finding the balance we seek both at work and at home. Buy the book here.

        #4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

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        The_7_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_People

          No list self-improvement books of any kind is complete without The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you had to choose just one single book to dramatically shift your personal development, this is the one you need to go with. Period. Buy the book here.

          #5. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

          The One Thing Cover

            The ONE Thing is a book for anyone who needs crystal clear clarity on how to set and get goals. This book tells us that simplicity is the real secret to success, and it’s got the science to back it up. Buy the book here.

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            #6. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

            flow-cover

              This is a book about the science and psychology of “optimal experience” (translation: how to live the happiest, most enjoyable and fulfilling life possible). If you’re interested in learning about how it feels to use your greatest gifts, skills, and passions in a way that only YOU are capable of using them — then read this book.

              #7. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

              the-power-of-habit-book-summary

                In The Power of Habit, you’ll learn the in’s and out’s of habit-formation. In the book, author Charles Duhigg has sifted through the science and busted many commonly-held myths about habit-formation so that all you’re left with are actionable frameworks that you can put to use immediately to help you build lasting habits, and break bad ones. Buy the book here.

                Which book will you read first?

                Now that you’ve got this list of 7 scientific self-help books — there’s only one question left… Which one do you read first? Should you go out and get all of them immediately? Should you read them all at once? So many options. So little time. Ultimately, it’s totally your decision what you do with this list and how you apply it to your life and career. But if I may, here’s what I would suggest you consider as you get started:

                • Subscribe to a book summary site, like FlashNotes Book Summaries to get the key-takeaways from the books on this list.
                • If you’d prefer to read an entire book, I would highly suggest that you read just ONE book at a time. Sometimes, when we see something new and exciting, we have tendency to want to do/learn/read it all at once… and as we all know, this is nearly impossible to do without stressing ourselves out. So, choose a book. And then commit to reading it from start to finish.
                • If you’re in a rush, try Audio books, or Audible Book Summaries.
                • Finally, if you’re in a super rush, checkout some YouTube video book summaries, like this one.

                More by this author

                Dean Bokhari

                Author, Entrepreneur, Podcast & TV Host

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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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