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How To Practice Forgiveness And Be Happier

How To Practice Forgiveness And Be Happier

Forgiveness plays a very important role in your life, especially within your most intimate relationships. Forgiveness offers both freedom and peace of mind, yet many choose to hold on to pain, bitterness and resentment. A lack of forgiveness lies at the heart of many problems; learning to let it go, thereby releasing you from its prison, can only result in one thing—happiness.

Your health and well-being are closely connected to your happiness. Practicing forgiveness will contribute significantly to them. With this in mind I wanted to share some points to help you to become more forgiving.

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See forgiveness as a gift to you, not a gift to someone else.

One of the reasons why you may hang on to a grievance is that you may believe that you are letting the other person off the hook by offering them forgiveness. In fact, it’s not actually about the other person. Forgiveness is a gift to yourself so that you no longer have to suffer, so that you can find peace and provide closure to the situation. The longer you hold on to a grievance, the more likely you are to have sleepless nights, stress and other unhealthy conditions. Practice forgiveness by treating it as a gift to you, so that you are free to live a happier life.

Stop ruminating on negative feelings.

Going over and over the same negative feelings will only continue to be a waste of time and be unproductive. Give yourself an opportunity to express how you feel to the relevant person, or if that is impossible (for example, if they are no longer alive), write it down in your journal. Expressing yourself and articulating exactly how it made you feel will help to release the grievance or grudge, thereby releasing any negative feelings associated with it.

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Identify your experience of the grudge.

When you’ve had something happen to you as a result of someone else’s behavior, it is hard to entertain the notion of offering forgiveness. One of the best ways to start the process is to identify your experience of the grudge. What are your actual feelings, thoughts and sensations around the situation? Most likely it will be a dark, sad and heavy feeling, which you have quite possibly played over and over in your mind. It can help to write this down, which will enable you to try to discover a new experience of the grudge so that you can release it once and for all.

Consider the impact holding on to the grudge has on you.

Ask yourself what areas of your life it has affected. Has it stopped you from living the life you once had? How would your life change if you practiced forgiveness? Remember that what happened was in the past and the very fact you are continuing to hold on to it will only keep it in the future for as long as you let it. Perhaps it is not only affecting you but those around you. Consider how your relationships will change if you choose differently.

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Ask yourself what you really need to do this.

If you need to express your hurt and pain to someone, perhaps it’s worth looking into that, or ask a friend to sit with you so you can let it all out. Use this as your chance to express what you really need so you can forgive, be honest and open with yourself, and look inwards to help heal. You need to stop carrying this heavy weight around with you, so really ask yourself what it is you need to do in order to continue with your life peacefully.

Acknowledge that it happened.

Sometimes when you choose not to forgive, there may be instances where you feel partly responsible for the situation, so you choose to blame someone else rather than be honest with yourself. Guilt is no better than holding on to your grudge; both of these feelings will eat away at you and only cause you harm in the long run. You owe it to yourself and your health to make a fresh start: get everything out, have the courage to own up and let it go.

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Forgiveness is a process.

Forgiveness will take time, as with anything else that is important to you. When the time is right, you must have an attitude of tough love towards yourself. Yes, be compassionate and caring, but don’t let yourself off the hook. Like doing something that really matters to you, you know you need to do it for your own good, so keep at it and stay committed—it will be worth it in the end.

Is there something or someone you need to forgive?

Featured photo credit: symphony of love via flickr.com

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Paula Lawes

Paula loves people and connecting. She writes about communication and relationships 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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