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Journaling: How I Remember the Details

Journaling: How I Remember the Details
Journaling

When I moved across the country, I brought two stuffed filing cabinets worth of personal papers. Not bills or business papers — we’re talking about notebooks filled with minutia of day-to-day life.

Since high school, I’ve relied on notebooks (my current preference is Moleskine cahiers, though I’ve used everything from composition books to huge 200-page sketchbooks to little spiral bounds obtained at the dollar store) to write down anything that came up during the day. I eventually adapted to interpreting this information into a planner and then an online calendar. These days, productivity experts such as David Allen, call such a system “ubiquitous capture.” My grandmother used plainer language and told me that if I didn’t write things down, my thoughts would wander off without me. She was entirely right.

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A notebook is useful in the moment — it’s portable and doesn’t need time to boot up or load software. That doesn’t justify me hanging on to years of shopping lists, though. It’s the other notes that crept in that make these notebooks worthwhile. An article on Dosh Dosh yesterday got me thinking about how these notebooks are effectively my private journals. While they’re full of task lists, I also used these notebooks to record lecture notes, ideas for short stories, long-term goals and just about everything that has gone through my head. We’re talking about uncensored thoughts that often never saw the light of day again.

I read through old notebooks when I need ideas or I want to remember what was important to me at a certain time. Maki puts it better:

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The key point to note is not the therapeutic effects of writing in a journal but rather the fact that regular journal keeping will influence the way you think or feel about an specific topic. If you’re an entrepreneur, blogger or marketer, reflection via a private journal will give you a fountain of ideas and initiatives to pursue.

It’s true. Even the act of writing down notes about a story I wanted to write was enough to improve the story. I check through old notebooks regularly for ideas to write about and even to attempt to sell. Any time I experience the slightest twinge of writer’s block, I start reading my own notes.

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A few days ago, I went looking for notes from a talk I attended during my sophomore year of college. The speaker was Stephanie Elizondo Griest, and she’d spoken about traveling on her own — a woman alone out in the world. Nominally, I’d been taking notes as a precursor to an article I was writing for the student paper, but I’ve pulled out these notes for three or four different occasions, like when a female friend was making solo traveling plans. I hadn’t pulled them out when making my own plans for my time abroad (Ireland and its neighbors didn’t seem quite as dangerous to a gal on her own than Griest’s experiences in rural Latin America), but I see now that I had made side notes about the trip I intended to eventually take. I can follow along with the plans I made, the places I wanted to visit. I can even tell you about my struggles getting my passport into my hands. I’ve got the notes I would need to write any number of articles about visiting Ireland or any short stories about the bureaucracy of travel abroad.

While I think that blogs and online journals are incredibly valuable precisely because they are shared, I think that these notes written without intentions of publication have far more value when I look back. They’re the clearest indicators of how I have changed over the years, and what I have thought was important. I know many people think that a formal journal or diary is more worthwhile and a better indicator, but, personally, I could never take that formal of a style when writing to myself. I know that one of the key pieces of advice that many authors copy each other on is that young writers should journal or keep a diary. It’s a standard exercise in creative writing classes of every type: write down your ideas, thoughts, anything that could evolve into a full-fledged piece of writing. And, let me tell you, anything can evolve into a poem or an essay. My notes on PR tactics from senior year were handed in for a poetry class practically verbatim.

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Despite my internal voice, though, I think that journaling is an admirable pursuit. Beyond the benefits of recording your thoughts for later, I think a daily or even a somewhat regular writing habit is practically necessary to improve a person’s ability to communicate. And don’t forget posterity! People still read Samuel Pepys’ diary and he died in 1703. Any genealogist, amateur or otherwise, will bless your name if you leave a journal — or any other records of your life beyond a carefully emptied inbox.

Thinking of starting your own journal? Consider starting small and offline. As simple to use as a free WordPress account (or another online journaling option of your choice), there is a lingering feeling that it might not be as private as one might want. The goal of most journaling is to be able to write without even personal censorship, after all. I’d even argue against using a computer at all — if you want an opportunity to take notes of your thoughts and ideas as they occur, waiting to get back to your desk may not cut it.

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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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