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9 Beliefs That Make Unhappy People Stay Unhappy

9 Beliefs That Make Unhappy People Stay Unhappy

How we think has a huge effect on how we feel. When we’re feeling down, it can be hard to imagine that we’re capable of pulling ourselves out of the slump. We can do it, however, and this post highlights nine beliefs that make unhappy people stay unhappy, plus how you can change them.

1. It needs to be perfect.

Perfection is rarely an obtainable standard, yet it’s the standard that so many of us strive to meet (and feel miserable when we don’t).

Rather than striving for perfection, we can make life a lot easier for ourselves by deciding in advance what “good enough” looks like for any given task and give ourselves permission to be satisfied with that.

2. I shouldn’t be feeling [X].

Nothing will bring us unhappiness faster than trying to convince ourselves that we shouldn’t feel a certain way. Whenever we say something that is shouldn’t be the way it is, we’re denying reality.

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Every feeling we experience occurs for a reason, even if that reason isn’t rooted in the present moment. While we might not enjoy the full spectrum of our emotional experience, we’ll be a lot happier if we stop trying to change things we can’t change.

Next time you feel an emotion and hear an internal voice saying you shouldn’t feel that way, tell yourself that you’re feeling exactly the way you’re supposed to feel and see how that alters your experience.

3. I don’t deserve [X].

While it’s true there might be times when we don’t deserve this or that, the moment this phrase stops being situational and becomes a belief, it’s going to affect our happiness.

The belief that we don’t deserve something doesn’t usually exist on its own. If we unpack this belief, we’ll usually find that several beliefs around our sense of worthiness feed it, for example, “I’m only worthy if I’m always busy,” or, “I’m only worthy if I make a lot of money.”

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4. If someone doesn’t like me, there must be something wrong with me.

When we try to please everyone, we end up pleasing no one, especially ourselves. Yet many of us still feel unhappy when someone indicates that they feel neutral or negatively towards us. We’re evolutionarily driven to seek out community and group acceptance, but it’s in the interests of our long-term happiness to recognize that we’re not necessarily going to find these things in every place we look.

Rather than focusing on whether other people like you, shift your focus to thinking about whether you like them.

5. I’ll be happy when…

The grass might always be greener on the other side, but if we wait for certain conditions to arise before we allow ourselves to feel happy, we’re missing the point of happiness altogether.

Whether you believe it or not, you can be happy now. Instead of focusing on the future, shift your focus to what you can feel gratitude for and enjoy in the present.

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6. Other people are just lucky.

Believing that other people are lucky when we’re not leaves us feeling more helpless than happy. Although other people might seem to have better circumstances than us, or to have effortlessly achieved things we’re struggling with, in reality they’ve usually worked very hard for those things.

The sooner we recognize that good fortune is rarely due to chance, the sooner we can start taking small steps towards our own good fortune.

7. Other people should see the world in the same way that I do.

Like point number two, if you believe that everyone should see the world in the same way you do, you’re going to be very unhappy whenever you come into contact with other people. We’re all individuals with our own experiences, our own histories, and our own ways of looking at the world.

Instead of believing that other people are somehow wrong if they don’t have the same world view as you, try appreciating the value that their different perspectives can offer you.

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8. I’m never going to be happy.

This belief is an example of a wider mindset that will lead to unhappiness: black and white thinking. While some things in the world are black and white, many more are varying shades of grey.

Happiness in particular is a skill, rather than a state of being we either experience or don’t. We can overcome this belief by practicing gratitude for what we have right here, right now, and accepting that our happiness might wax and wane over our lifetimes.

9. No one understands me/I’m the only one who feels [X].

When we’re feeling down, it’s tempting to look at everyone around us and imagine that we’re the only ones who feel this way or who are having this experience right now. While this can exacerbate the feeling, in reality, feeling sad, angry, hurt, or other typically ‘negative’ emotions is part of the normal human experience.

Remember, however you’re feeling, that you’re human and that the feeling will pass.

What are your tips for overcoming beliefs that keep people unhappy? Leave a comment and let us know.

More by this author

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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