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Three Thoughts to Make You Instantly Happier

Three Thoughts to Make You Instantly Happier

My fiancee’s sister is in town, along with her five-year-old niece, which means I’ve been temporarily set aside for long bouts of playing “house” and discussions about the new baby on the way in May.

Rather than become upset about my relocation to the periphery of attention, I’m enjoying some extra time to think.

One of the most striking observations I had over the weekend was that many people go out in search of “happiness.”

We really look for happiness in three things: the people around us, the work we do, and our current situation.

This would be fine, if any of these things actually make us happy.  They don’t.

Here are three truths most people never realize until they travel the world, do what they love, and achieve an impossible goal:

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1) No matter where you live, people will be pretty much the same

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” -Dagobert D. Runes

I’ve lived in three different countries now and have traveled to 9 (I think), and I’ve found this to be absolutely true.  Once you peel back some of the strange ways people do things, you really see that people are the same everywhere.  In Afghanistan, I met slick salesmen and devoted husbands.  In Turkey, I have known noisy neighbors and horrible gossips.  Lately, in Turkey, there’s a huge surge in Justin Bieber fanaticism.  Some people work hard and are happy; some people are very lazy and bored.  Some are happy; some are not.

When I lived in America, I saw much the same habits from the people around me.  Some were happy while others complained.  Some were honorable while others cheated in an attempt to get ahead.  There really is no difference in people on a human level, and once you’ve lived in a foreign country for a few months, you realize this.

I’m not saying there are no differences in culture or thoughts; just that the strange people you find so fascinating are available in your own neighbor hoods, if you care to notice them.

2) Everybody, even people who love their jobs, sometimes hate getting up and going to work

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” –Steve Jobs

Okay, okay, we’re probably using Steve Jobs’ quotes a little too often, but the man had a good philosophy on work.  I’m told he was horrible to wait on in a restaurant, but that’s neither here nor there.

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Steve Jobs was a strong believer in doing what you love every day.  He refused to work on something which didn’t fill him with passion.  I believe this led to much of his success.

If you read the quote carefully, you will notice he says “too many days in a row.”  Not “today” but “too many.”  There’s a great message there.  He didn’t wake up every day excited to go to work.  Most days, yes, but not every day.

I do what I love for a living.  I get to spend my working hours helping people, answering questions, writing blogs and books, and generally getting to nerd out.  It’s a dream job I worked hard to create for myself.

Even so, some days I want to stay in bed and watch Lord of the Rings.

Every person I know, whether they work for a company or themselves, has days they don’t “feel it.”  Pushing through these days and getting the job done is essential if you want to succeed.

That being said, if EVERY day over the course of season feels like this, you should move on to something else.

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Understand, we all have days we don’t want to work, even those of us living our dreams.

3) Whatever you’re going through, it will pass soon, for better or worse

“This too shall pass…” –mistakenly attributed to The Bible

Full disclaimer: I’m a Christian and for years I believed this was part of a Bible Verse.  Imagine my surprise when I learned this is nowhere in the Bible.

Regardless if this came from the Bible or not, it’s still a great truth for all of us to remember.

Think back on your happiest memory, that single moment in time when everything was going right.  Got it?  Are you still every bit as excited as you were then?  I’m betting (unless reading this post is the happiest moment of your life, which if that’s the case, I’m very flattered) you have lost some of that excitement.

Now, think back on the lowest moment of your life, when everything seemed hopeless and you saw no relief on the horizon.  Got it?  Are you still as depressed and scared as you were then?  If you are, please don’t blame my writing style.  Leave your suggestions in the comments section below and I will furiously work to be less depressing (I promise).

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Either way, the ups and the downs have passed and will pass you again.  This is the natural way our lives work.

We all have rough times and good times; great successes and failures; deep love and crushing heartache.  Life does this to us, and it’s the best part of life.  If we didn’t experience the down times, we wouldn’t appreciate the great moments.  If we didn’t have the great moments, we wouldn’t understand when things weren’t going well.

As I write these closing words, I think on them once again and I’m smiling.  I realize that even though I live in a foreign country, do work I enjoy every day, and understand how fleeting life’s moments are, I could easily be just as happy back in Nashville, working at Dell.

I’ll close with Abraham Lincoln as he said “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Wise words for all of us to remember.

Trent

P.S.  There is actually very little evidence Abraham Lincoln said this.  Dr. Frank Crane first published this in a newspaper in 1914, attributing the quote to President Lincoln.  There has been nothing to suggest this quote ever surfaced before then.  Fun fact. :)

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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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