Advertising
Advertising

How Prioritizing Things You Enjoy Doing Can Create More Joy in Life

How Prioritizing Things You Enjoy Doing Can Create More Joy in Life

Prioritizing the things you enjoy seems like common sense. You love it, so you would choose to do it more often, right? Yet, this doesn’t seem to happen. How many of us, for instance, would say watching TV is a priority in our lives? Other than TV critics, probably very few. Still, the average American will spend nine years of their lives watching TV.

Our behavior affects our thinking. From how we sit, to the time we spend outside, we can create more opportunity for relaxation, connection, and joy in our lives.

Emotions are Responses to Actions

A few months ago, I had begun working with The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Every week, I needed to do an artist date, a commitment to spend time with myself. While self-conscious, I picked up a cheap chalk set and took it home with me. The next morning, I went outside, put on some music and began drawing. Swirling color on the asphalt, listening to music, I couldn’t stop smiling.

The drawings became larger and larger. My clothes were a mess, my hair got sweaty, but I was engrossed in the bright colors against the black. There was no ulterior motive, no pressure in how this had to look. It was just a joyful few hours. In fact, I ran out of chalk!

The craziest part of this was not that I enjoyed chalk, but that I hadn’t done it in 10 or 12 years. What was so much fun as a kid wasn’t cool as a teenager, or as an adult. So I stopped doing it. But who did that hurt? Only me. My embarrassment cut out an activity I enjoyed. Worse, it cut out the opportunity to feel joy in life.

Advertising

Emotions are responses to our experiences. Fundamentally, they are a way of keeping us safe and alive through positive responses to beneficial activities. When we’re hungry, it feels good to eat because we are nourishing our bodies. When we are burned, it hurts because it threatens our health. They are a great barometer for how our actions affect us.

When you take time to do things you enjoy, you create the opportunity to feel pleasure. You may feel self-conscious or a bit awkward initially, but you will enjoy the activity. Maybe you only crack a smile, but it’s an opening to something larger.

Joy as Your Compass

Brené Brown has done amazing research on human connection and what brings joy and meaning to people’s lives. What’s fascinating about her work though, is the need for authenticity. As human beings, we are social creatures and we need connection. But the connection we want hinges on an important factor: being ourselves. If we aren’t ourselves fully and truly, we can’t create real connections in life.

But what does it mean to be authentic? It’s a practice, it’s showing up every day and making the choice to be yourself. Authenticity isn’t something you wake up with, like freckles or long legs. It’s a practice requiring commitment.

So who is your authentic self? Is it the person you’ve fallen in to being? I know that figuring this out isn’t easy. I graduated from college three years ago, thinking I wanted to give my life in the service of others. I had grown up helping others, not thinking about myself. While noble, it took six months of living abroad to realize I wasn’t happy. It was hard to admit, but selfless service wasn’t for me.

Advertising

I had to come back to America and figure out what work made me smile, gave me joy. I discovered it right under my nose: writing. Journaling led to poetry, which led to short stories, and eventually got me a job as a copywriter. The path wasn’t easy, but I now wake up and enjoy what I do. And in my own small way, my words help people, and myself.

Your story doesn’t have to be as drastic as mine. Prioritizing the activities you enjoy can help you decide what you do and don’t like. It helps you stay rooted in yourself. The question, “Do I enjoy this?” suddenly has you looking to yourself for answers. Prioritizing your joy puts you in command of your life.

Creating Meaning in Your Life

Blue Zones teamed up with National Geographic to have some of the best researchers study longevity and what, if anything, can be found to help people live longer and better lives. They have found multiple “blue zones” in a variety of places from Japan to Southern California. Some of their findings have been hyped: movement and diet especially. More fascinating have been the social and psychological factors.

One psychological factor that all these communities shared was the need for meaning. Each of us needs to be able to answer: Why do I get up in the morning? Yes, this is a daunting question. If you haven’t thought about your priorities, then the question becomes unanswerable.

Prioritizing things you enjoy can help you find those answers, as well as keep you grounded in meaningful activities. Joy as a compass for authenticity, also helps guide you to your answers. Perhaps your priority is raising your children in a safe and loving environment. Thus, even when you’re deep in a long PTA meeting, you can remember that this meeting will help your kids. Remembering the bigger priority will help you see the silver lining, and get through a painful meeting a bit more easily.

Advertising

Letting Go of the Negative

I hate to admit it, but most mornings I wake up and check social media. A bit clichéd for a millennial, but I am addicted to the internet. More and more, however, I’m focusing on writing in my journal instead. I free write for three pages, clearing my head for the day. Change is hard, but more and more I find the benefits of writing outweigh any excitement from a Tweet or Facebook notification.

As humans, we only have so much time. In one day you work for at least eight hours, and sleep for hopefully another seven to eight. At the minimum, that’s fifteen hours of your day gone. No one can do it all, for better or worse, so as your habits change, you will let things go.

When you begin to prioritize things that make you happy, you’ll slowly let go of activities you’ve done that didn’t help you. Perhaps you’ll spend less time on social media like me. Maybe you’ll go out drinking less and start hiking more. You could even start cooking or traveling on mini trips on the weekend. Wherever joy takes you, you’ll find it easier to let go of things holding you back. You’re not depriving yourself, you’re nurturing yourself with something even better than before.

Celebrating Life

Reflections of the Earth

    The only certainties in life, Benjamin Franklin once joked, are death and taxes. While morose, this is also true. Time, of all the things we possess, is the most precious commodity. How we choose to spend it reveals more about ourselves than anything we say.

    Advertising

    Life will never be easy or perfect. You will still have to pay taxes, go to work, get stuck in traffic, and make mistakes. There will be days you don’t want to get out of bed or wish that you were anywhere else. That doesn’t make your life bad, it makes you healthy, normal.

    But you have choice in your actions. You can choose to sit down and spend quality time with your kids. You can choose to go outside for a hike instead of turning on the TV. You can create pockets of joy in five or ten minutes.

    Featured photo credit: Express Monorail via flickr.com

    More by this author

    Identify Your Talents in 9 Easy Steps How Prioritizing Things You Enjoy Doing Can Create More Joy in Life

    Trending in Communication

    1 5 Real Relationship Goals You Should Actually Strive Toward 2 When You Learn A Second Language, These 7 Amazing Things Will Happen To You 3 15 Things To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Truly Happy 4 7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language 5 How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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]

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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]

    Advertising

    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

    Read Next