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4 Easy Steps To Beat Winter Blues

4 Easy Steps To Beat Winter Blues

The decorations are gone, Christmas is over, and New Year’s resolutions have been made and broken. Summer is still several months off and those long winter evenings transformed from a cozy novelty into a depressing inconvenience several weeks ago.

Yes, the post-holiday period is a notoriously grim time of year, but there’s still time to turn it around. Here are four ways to beat winter blues and start the new year as you mean to continue it.

1. Change your routine

Getting stuck in the same routine is, at best, uninspiring. During a period when the things we can do in our leisure time are limited by factors like the weather, lack of daylight and other winter delights, it’s easy to get stuck in the same patterns. This doesn’t just apply to our daily routines: when our external routine is the same, we can get stuck in the same emotional patterns too.

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One solution is to change your routine. Nothing radical that’s going to totally disrupt your sense of stability, but small changes that are enough to inject a sense of novelty and rejuvination into your day.

If you eat lunch at your desk, go to a local cafe once or twice a week. Get off the bus or train early and walk the last couple of blocks home. If you already walk home, vary your route. Take up a new hobby. Browse your local listings for evening classes. If you have a partner or close friend, talk to them about taking up joint activities. There’s nothing like a weekly Lindy Hop class to dance away the winter cold.

On that note…

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2. Get moving

We all know that getting off our asses and getting moving makes us feel good. Whether it’s five minutes dancing around your living room to Tina Turner, or heading out to a local Zumba class, exercise has a multitude of both physical and emotional benefits. Among the many side benefits of exercise, it improves your mood and energy levels, leaving you feeling happier and more relaxed (not to mention virtuous).

The main condition of ‘get moving’ is that it’s fun. Punishing 10K runs on Sunday mornings might be some people’s idea of a good time, but most of us would rather ditch the trainers and stay in bed. Your moments of movement don’t have to be “traditional” exercise: choosing something that motivates you is more important than being conventional.

3. Keep a journal

Journaling is one of the most valuable personal development tools around, and it doesn’t cost you a cent. If you’ve never journaled before, the idea of starting a daily or weekly practice might feel daunting, but the great thing about journaling is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Journaling is traditionally done using pen and paper, but you can use drawing, painting, collage or even music as your medium. As long as the format gives you a voice, it’s worth a try.

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Some starting suggestions for journaling ideas include:

  • A gratitude journal: Write down 5-10 things you’re grateful for from the day that’s just passed.
  • A “have done” list: The perfect antidote to endless to-do lists, a have-done list involves writing down everything you’ve done that day, big and small
  • Morning Pages: Write stream-of-consciousness for 3 pages of your journal (or about 750 words). If you think it, it goes on paper. This exercise from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron encourages your internal dialogue to come out, cracks through your defences, and helps to reveal your true thoughts and feelings.

4. Connect

Who we surround ourselves with deeply impacts our levels of happiness and satisfaction. Connecting with like-minded, supportive people is a fantastic way of reclaiming our mojo.

Choose one or two people from your circle of friends who are cheerleaders—people who are accepting, encouraging and inspiring—and make a plan to schedule regular meet-ups or conversations with them. If you find it hard to identify these people within your existing group of friends, use this as a chance to branch out. Taking up a new hobby (see idea no. 1) or attending a new exercise class (idea no. 2) are great ways of meeting new friends who share similar interests.

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What are your tips to beat winter blues? 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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