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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

Living in the Past? 7 Ways to Let Go and Live a Happy Life

Living in the Past? 7 Ways to Let Go and Live a Happy Life

Are you living in the past? How can you live a happy life when you can’t let go of what’s already happened?

Instead of focusing on the present, you’re caught in a web of reflection and brooding, and only your past mistakes seem to matter. Yet there are many out there who live each day with a happy and positive view on life. Why? Because they are not focusing on the past.

Read this guide to learn how you can let go of your past and start living a happier life.

1. Let the Emotions Flow

“Cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness.” -Steve Maraboli

One mistake many people make is that they try to ignore their emotions altogether, which is the worst thing to do. To move forward, feel your emotions. This is key to understanding why you are upset in the first place.

Let the tears come until you can cry no more, or scream into a pillow until the frustration ebbs away. Let it all out in order to let go of the past and live a happy life.

Read these tips on why it’s ok to cry.

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However, don’t get lost in the emotion. Make sure you remind yourself that you are not your emotions. Your emotions affect you, but you are in control of how you feel.

2. Don’t Let Negative Thoughts Cloud Your Mind

Allow yourself to express your emotions, but don’t dwell on them. Negative thinking is unproductive as it distracts you from the positives in life and makes it harder to let go of the past. Negative thoughts plague your mind with self-sabotaging thoughts, denying you your right to live a happy life.

Furthermore, studies have shown that “certain negative cognitions can produce and maintain the state of depression. There is also good evidence that depressed mood affects the relative accessibility of positive and negative cognitions[1].

Basically, negative thinking can produce depression, and depression can produce negative thinking, which all leads to a vicious cycle that’s difficult to escape from. This also makes it much more difficult to move on from the past when your mind is plagued with negative emotions.

When a negative thought crosses your mind, steer your mind away from it. Instead, look at the positives you have gained from an experience. Willie Nelson mentions the power of positive thinking perfectly:

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.

3. Learn From Your Experience

Take away the positives from past experiences. By learning from an experience, you learn more about yourself and what makes you happy. It may even help to write all of these down and post them on your desk for a few days to help remind you why difficult experiences are necessary.

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Did you go through a tough break-up? Well, you’ve learned what you do and don’t want in a partner and can now seek out more meaningful relationships.

Did you get fired from a job? It’s likely that you’re now thinking about what kind of work you want to do next, so you’re learning more about what makes you happy.

Whatever the lesson is, it will help you move on to bigger and better things if you take it to heart and let it guide you.

Use these experiences to your advantage so you can learn more about what makes you happy in life.

4. Stop Being the Victim

When you get into the mind-set of the victim, you often find that all your thoughts lead back to past traumas, which makes it almost impossible to stop living in the past. Your mind becomes plagued by these thoughts, and you find yourself thinking that everything always goes wrong for you.

Of course, this is not the case at all, because you are in control of your fate. You shouldn’t think that because you have failed before, you will fail now. Instead, remember that you have control over your life, and you don’t have to be the victim[2].

The opposite of playing the victim is being a survivor. Acknowledge that what you’ve gone through is hard and try to make yourself a better person through it. This will naturally improve your mental health and make you feel good.

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5. Don’t Wait for an Apology

“True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘Thank you for the experience.'” -Oprah Winfrey

The best lesson you can learn in life is to forgive and forget. Maybe that other person was in the wrong, that he or she should apologize, but waiting for that apology isn’t going to help you. In the end, the only one you will hurt is yourself because you aren’t letting go of the past.

Focus on moving forward, because what has happened is in the past . You could be waiting an eternity for that apology and wasting your time hung up. Don’t let someone else’s mistakes stop you from living a happy life.

Here’re some tips to help you: How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide)

6. Expand Your View of Yourself

You’ve confronted your past and moved on, so now is the time to avert attention to yourself. This is the time to get to know yourself better, to learn what makes you happy.

Go out and take part in new activities, don’t be afraid to take risks, and learn what experiences you are passionate about. Understanding who you are and what you want out of life will make you happier in the long run.

This is a good time to spend time by yourself. Take yourself out to lunch, go for a solo walk in the park, or make yourself a nice meal. Treat yourself well and learn to love who you are now.

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7. Live in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

Enjoy the present, the moment you are in now. You won’t live this minute again, which is why you should make the most of it.

Be present in this very moment by looking around you. Take in what people are saying, as well as focusing on yourself and what you are doing.

This doesn’t come naturally for most people. If you’re struggling with this, try developing a mindfulness meditation practice. This will help you realign your thoughts toward the present, reduce stress, and make space to analyze any problems you have with dwelling on the past.

You can learn more about the benefits of mindfulness in this TED Talk with Andy Puddicombe:

The Bottom Line

The best thing you can do for yourself today is to leave the past behind you. What has happened has made you who you are, but it doesn’t have to define who you become from this moment on.

Focus now on the present moment and your own happiness. Choosing to be positive will open you up to a happier life where you’re able to succeed and achieve your goals.

More on How to Stop Living in the Past

Featured photo credit: Artem Beliaikin via unsplash.com

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Jessica Charlotte

Jessica loves sharing her tips on life. She writes about happiness and motivation on Lifehack.

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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

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