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How To Free Yourself From Fearful Thoughts

How To Free Yourself From Fearful Thoughts

Many of us are susceptible to fearful thoughts during our lives, as well as feelings of dread and anxiety. If you have experienced this it is important you know that you are not different or broken; you are human. Having experienced this himself, Josh Bowler has shared six tips to help you free yourself of fearful thoughts:

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” ~Eckhart Tolle

Here I am, huddled up close to the wood burner, my only source of heat, sitting on an old recliner chair that was given to me, in a rented apartment with windows soaked with condensation. Outside it is cold, wet, and dreary, a typical English winter’s day.

My business folded in July with substantial personal debt and I turned forty-four in August.

Perhaps not the most heart-warming start to a post, but rather some raw facts of how my life is now, not x number of years ago before I turned my life around, but now! I’m pretty sure I am not alone in this situation I find myself.

In July when I folded my never very successful business resulting in substantial personal debt, the first thing I did was completely freak out—panic attacks, endless anxiety, depressive thoughts, the whole nine yards.

I went to my doctor who gave me anti-anxiety medication without a second thought. I tried them for a couple of months, but I had been down that route before and this time I felt that it was not the solution to my problems. So after consulting with the doc I carefully weaned myself off of them.

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What I needed was answers as to what was causing me so much pain inside rather than a Band-Aid to cover it. I needed to find out why I seemed to have spent my entire life under a shadow, a shadow from which I never felt comfortable emerging to engage fully with the world for fear of being seen.

Enter Tiny Buddha. I found Tiny Buddha by chance while endlessly searching for answers as to what was broken in me. What I discovered after reading hundreds of posts was a revelation: I am not broken.

After digging deeper, I began to realize that I was locked in a trance most of the time, a trance created by my egoic mind. A trance shaped by fear during my formative years. My psyche was trying to protect me from the fear and lack of safety I felt when growing up; it was trying to keep me safe.

My childhood interpretation of the events I experienced, combined with non-compassionate and non-understanding authority figures, led my psyche to decide that the best way to deal with life was to retreat to a place of safety and hide, to not get involved or be exposed in any way.

It met any situation or event that it interpreted as fearful with vigorous resistance.

As most things in life contain some element of fear and anticipation, especially new things, my egoic mind trance was active most of the time, constantly in the background, ready to come to my rescue at the slightest whiff of perceived danger.

The irony is that my mind’s way of “rescuing” me was to paralyze me with feelings of dread, worry, and anxiety, coupled with the physical feelings associated with panic. 

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It’s not easy when your egoic mind has spent the greater part of your life trying to convince you that it is the only place where you are safe.

Over the years the egoic mind has plenty of time to really go to town building a devilishly intricate trance machine that becomes deeply entrenched in the psyche. Mine was so entrenched that I thought it was me. Until recently, that is.

What I am learning from reading many posts on Tiny Buddha, which led me to books, podcasts, and other resources on the subject of the being, is this:

1. We need to realize that we truly are not our thoughts.

Our thoughts come from the egoic mind. We are the awareness that hears the thoughts.

When you talk to yourself inside your mind, to whom are you actually talking? It is your awareness, and that is who you are, that is your being. Not the thoughts.

Your thoughts are just constructs of your egoic mind. You can actually choose to let them float on by without believing or engaging them, should you choose to.

2. Understand it is not your fault that your mind is causing you such pain; it’s a product of evolution. 

Back in the days of caves and things with sharp pointy teeth, you were more likely to survive if you were ever vigilant of danger—meaning the genes that favored this behavior were more likely to get passed down… to you.

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The egoic mind thinks it is helping you by keeping you safe and trapped inside a trance. It is not its fault, and you have to face your trance thoughts with compassion and love, and be able to forgive yourself. It really isn’t your fault.

3. Use meditation and mindfulness throughout the day; learn to see the space between the real you—which is awareness—and the egoic mind, as its thoughts race by.

Observe thoughts for what they are: just thoughts. Try not to allow yourself to become absorbed in your thoughts and go into trance, but do not punish yourself if you do.

Be kind and compassionate to yourself when you recognize you have drifted away and start fresh in the moment, returning to a state of mindful awareness whenever you can.

4. Identify the trance thoughts and emotions as they arise and name them.

For example, “Oh, this is fear I am feeling, just fear,” or “I feel you dread and worry; it’s okay,” or “Hello shame and unworthiness; I see you.”

This technique of compassionate recognition will reduce the power they have over you, as you have exposed them for what they really are: just thoughts.

5. Remember that it takes perseverance and practice, lots of it.

Another fun thing we inherited from our ancestors is that the fear of something can become embedded in our long-term memory even after a single, brief exposure to it. Conversely, it takes much longer and repeated exposure to positive stimuli before they are committed to long-term memory.

6. Each time you notice yourself in a state of negativity, use it as an opportunity to practice, to mindfully observe your thoughts with acceptance and compassion.

This will allow them to flow through and out of you rather than be kept inside to be constantly recycled.

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Do not beat yourself up if you find it difficult to let go of thinking. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. It took you more than a few days to learn to read and write. It will take a little time for you to calm your egoic mind and let your awareness shine through.

This is the path I have begun to walk. I’ve begun to let go of expectations about others and myself; to learn to be compassionate and to love myself; to accept who I am, and where I am in this moment; to try not to judge others or myself. To know that in this moment everything is okay.

And now that my cat is lying on my lap, I guess that means it is time to finish this. Life is all about these moments.

Josh Bowler is a musician, writer and ecologist stepping back on the path he inadvertently left 24 years ago and finding it is all still there just waiting to be seen. He has a blog telluwot.com/complete-being/ and has written a short guidebook on the subject of dealing with anxiety and stress.

6 Tips to Help You Free Yourself from Your Fearful Thoughts | Tiny Buddha

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Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan is a passionate writer sharing about motivation and happiness tips 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

Reference

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