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7 Tips for Building New Habits

7 Tips for Building New Habits

Building new habits is one of the most challenging and most rewarding processes we’ll experience in our lives. The tips below are specifically about starting new (and hopefully healthy) habits, but you can also adapt them to support you in breaking existing unhealthy habits.

1. Find your motivation

Habits are far more likely to succeed if they are based on intrinsic motivation, rather than extrinsic motivation. Entire books have been written about this complex topic so, in a nutshell, the difference between the two is that intrinsic motivation is internal, while extrinsic motivation is external. For example, perhaps you want to create a new exercise habit. An intrinsic motivation for doing this might be wanting to be healthy (an internal motivation that just concerns yourself). An extrinsic motivation might be wanting to lose weight so that other people will perceive you as more attractive (an external motivation that is based on the perceptions and judgments of others).

To give yourself the best chance of creating a sustainable habit, take a good, long look at your motives before you even start working on this new activity. You might find that your motivation is intrinsic to begin with (great!), that you need to shift your thinking slightly, or notice that this particular habit is something you’re doing for someone else, rather than for yourself.

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Even if you realise that you’re engaging in this particular habit for someone else, that doesn’t mean you have to ditch the habit entirely, it just means that you need to think more about whether you have a personal, intrinsic motivation you can use to sustain the habit in the long term.

2. Start small

The easiest way to sabotage a new habit is by taking the ‘all or nothing’ approach and going from 0 to 100 in the first few days. Starting small and increasing the frequency and intensity of the habit will make it far easier to sustain in the long-term than leaping right in. This is especially the case if you are starting something like a new exercise habit, where throwing yourself into a rigorous training regime before your body and mind are ready could result in injury and set you back more than it helps you.

Setting the bar low also reduces the likelihood that you’ll get discouraged and drop your habit because it’s ‘too challenging’ or because you’re not making the progress you’d hoped you would. Which leads onto the next tip…

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3. Be compassionate, not critical

If you only pay attention to one tip in the entire post, this is it: Internal criticism is the kryptonite of building new habits and you’ll find it much easier to create a sustainable habit if you’re on your own side. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of the inner critic (in my experience, that’s not a realistic goal), but being mindful of it.

When we’re mindful of our inner critics, we hear what they say but we’re not controlled by what they say. Maintaining this distance can take some practise (and you might find yourself with ample opportunity to do just that while building your new habit!). At the same time as maintaining distance from your inner critic, take the opportunity to strengthen your internal ‘nurturing’ voice—the voice that tells you your best is enough and supports and encourages you on your journey.

4. Enlist support

Feel free to ask trusted friends and family for any help and support they can give you while you’re building your new habit. External support is especially helpful when you’re building habits that require lifestyle changes, such as changing your diet or your exercise habits. If you are around other people who have a similar lifestyle to you, asking them to support you in making your lifestyle habit changes by, for example, not bringing sugary foods into the house, will make it easier for you to maintain a new habit.

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5. Be accountable

Declaring your new habit to others is a great way of getting support from people around you, and it’s a great way of adding a healthy dose of accountability to your situation too. Being accountable might involve enlisting the help of a dedicated accountability buddy that you check in with on a regular basis, or going public with your new habit to your wider circles of friends.

6. Set a regular schedule

Making your new habit a regular part of your daily or weekly routine from the very beginning will give you a much greater chance of sustaining it over a longer period of time. Dedicating a specific block of time to your habit on the same day and hour each week will make it easier to integrate that habit into your life than just waiting until you feel like doing it.

In addition, some habits are easier to implement first thing in the morning, particularly activities like exercise, meditation or keeping a journal. Setting aside time for a new habit first thing in the morning not only makes it easier to remember but it also gives you the satisfaction of moving on with your day, knowing that that particular activity is ticked off your to-do list.

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7. Have a goal in mind

Having a specific goal to work towards can help maintain your new habit and give you a challenge to work towards. If you choose to create a habit-related goal, make sure it is SMART: specific, measurable, appealing, realistic and time-based. For example, ‘start running more’ is a goal, but it’s hard to know when you’ve achieved it and what ‘more’ looks like in practical terms. Instead, setting a goal like “Run that charity 10K in September” is a SMART goal and therefore easier to work towards. It’s specific, measurable, hopefully appealing and realistic, and it’s time-based.

What are your tips for creating new habits? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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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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