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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be a Happier Person

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7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be a Happier Person

Want to be a happier person but with some many negative things going around, you don’t know what to do to feel happy?

The How of Happiness by University of California, Riverside Prof. Sonja Lyubomirsky talks about how to be a happier person. Here are seven scientifically proven ways derived from Sonja’s research on how to be the happiest person on earth.

1. Practice gratitude once a week.

Expressing gratitude, or counting your blessings, does not just make you happy—it also improves your health. However, you need to be strategic about how you do it. In one of the author’s experiments they directed the participants to keep a gratitude journal and contemplate five things that made them feel grateful. They would start the exercise by saying “This week I’m grateful for…”

Half of the participants were instructed to do that once a week, while the rest of them did that three times a week for a total of six weeks.

Here’s what’s strange: Only the group that counted their blessings once a week achieved happiness results because of it.

Why?

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Probably because the participants who did it three times a week found practicing gratitude to be a chore, while the others were looking forward to it. So once a week, make sure you count your blessings!

2. Make friends and invest in your relationships.

Happy people are renowned for their circle of friends, their relationship with their family, and their loving marriage

What is amazing about friendships and intimate relationships is that their happiness effect does not get reduced by hedonic adaptation. That means that you won’t get used to your loving marriage the way you get used to your new furniture.

So make time for your friends, express appreciation and make them feel good, be kind, and just have fun with them. You’ll be happier in doing so.

3. Become a stress resilience ninja.

Happiness is not just about feeling good all the time. Happy people also get to recover from bad situations and stress more quickly. They are the stress resilience ninjas!

Here’s an example: One study found that the life of breast cancer survivors had been altered for the better after the disease! Actually two-thirds of the women said so. These women talked about having a wake-up call that made re-prioritize their life for the better. They found the good in the bad.

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If that’s an excellent coping strategy with cancer, then I bet it’ll do wonders for any type of stress that appears in your life. The next time something bad shows up, ask yourself what you can learn from it.

4. Take care of your body.

Did you know that aerobic exercise has the same benefits on depression as taking Zoloft? Well, in a 1999 study researchers divided a group of 50+ men and women who suffered from depression in three groups.

One group did supervised aerobic exercise three times a week, another group took Zoloft—an anti-depressant—while the third group did both.

The result? After four months all three groups were doing better with increased self-esteem and happiness. Even better, six months later, participants who had recovered from depression were less likely to relapse back to depression if they belonged in the exercise group compared to the ones who just took Zoloft.

So there you have it. Exercise works miracles in your happiness!

Don’t know how to get started it or how to find a routine that you actually like? Check out Exercise Bliss, a unique program that helps you make exercise a daily ritual, and you just might find what works for you.

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5. Take care of your soul.

The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 47% of people who report attending religious services several times a week describe themselves as “very happy”.
  • Just 28% of people who attend less than once a month can claim the same.

It seems that the social support and the sense of identity that people get from belonging to the same religious group is unparalleled.

It is possible, however, that this happiness discrepancy has nothing to do with people’s relationship with the divine and everything to do with people’s relationships with each other, as people who attend religious services are proven to have larger social networks than those who don’t.

Still, religious people who believe that the divine is helping them are three times more likely to be alive six months after a serious cardiac surgery. One way or another, it seems that religious people definitely score some happiness points.

 6. Commit to your (intrinsic) goals.

People who strive for something personally significant, like raising a family, learning a new skill, or even changing careers are happier. The author explains that pursuing goals provides with a sense of purpose and a feeling of control over our lives.

Not all goals are made equal, though: intrinsic goals make you happy, while extrinsic goals might not be as effective.

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  • Intrinsic goals are the ones meaningful to you, the ones that allow you to grow and be more. Examples: doing a hobby while on vacation, working on a skill because you want to become better, etc.
  • Extrinsic goals are the ones that are a means to an end—you go on a diet to lose weight, you work hard to make more money, etc.

Research is crystal clear: Intrinsic goals are much more likely than extrinsic goals to give a sense of competence and autonomy, and hence, make you happier.

7. Enjoy life’s pleasures to the fullest!

Researchers have even come up with a word that describes enjoying life: savoring.

“Savoring: Thoughts or behaviors capable of generating, intensifying, and prolonging enjoyment”

When you take a walk and suddenly think about how beautiful everything around you is, you are savoring. When you listen to your wife and cannot help yourself but feel lucky for being with her; you are savoring.

The immediate benefit of savoring? You are more confident. You are actually enjoying every little or big pleasure life has to offer to the fullest. Now that’s a habit I want in my life!

But how do you make savoring a habit? By practicing mindfulness. Here’s how to practice mindfulness: A Simple Guide to Mindfulness for Beginners

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There you have it. Seven ways to become the happiest person on earth. Which one will you choose to expand on?

Featured photo credit: Allef Vinicius via unsplash.com

More by this author

Maria Brilaki

Maria helps people create habits that stick not just for a month or two but for years and decades.

How to Find Workout Motivation When You Hate Exercise 8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More How to Think Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy 7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be a Happier Person 10 Things Nice People Do Differently That Make Them Achieve More

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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