Be True To Yourself & To People You Love



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17 Signs It’s Time To Define The Relationship, Because “The Talk” Will Finally Get You Out Of That Gray Area

17 Signs It’s Time To Define The Relationship, Because “The Talk” Will Finally Get You Out Of That Gray Area

There’s nothing worse than being a relationship with someone—and you realize you define the relationship differently. You think you’re exclusive, then realize he/she is still swiping right on Hinge and Tinder. “We never had ‘the talk,’” they may say as a defense. Or maybe you’re […]

7 Good Reasons to Smile

7 Good Reasons to Smile

Smiling happens without much thought. When you watch a friend do something silly or embarrassing, you smirk. When a police officer lets you off without a ticket, you grin. And when you are recognized for your top performance in academics or at work, you beam. […]

Understanding Body Language

Understanding Body Language

Picking Up on People’s Nonverbal Signals

Lauren sighed. She’d just received an email from her boss, Gus, saying that the product proposal she’d been working on wasn’t going to be signed off after all.

It didn’t make any sense. A week ago she’d been in a meeting with Gus and he’d seemed really positive about it all. Sure, he hadn’t made much eye contact, and he kept looking out of the window at something. But she’d just put that down to him being busy. And, he’d said that “the project will probably get the go-ahead.”

If Lauren had known a little bit more about body language, she’d have realized that Gus was trying to tell her that he wasn’t “sold” on her idea. He just wasn’t using words.

In this article, we’ll define what is meant by body language, and how you can read and interpret it to understand people better and communicate with them more effectively.

What Is Body Language?

Put simply, body language is the unspoken element of communication that we use to reveal our true feelings and emotions. Our gestures, facial expressions and posture, for instance.

When we are able to “read” these signs, we can use it to our advantage. For example, it can help us to understand the complete message of what someone is trying to say to us, and to enhance our awareness of people’s reactions to what we say and do.

We can also use it to adjust our own body language so that we appear more positive, engaging and approachable.

How to Read Negative Body Language

Being aware of negative body language in others can allow you to pick up on unspoken issues or bad feelings. So, in this section, we’ll highlight some negative nonverbal signals that you should look out for.

Difficult Conversations and Defensiveness

Difficult or tense conversations are an uncomfortable fact of life at work. Perhaps you’ve had to deal with a difficult customer, or needed to talk to someone about his or her poor performance. Or maybe you’ve negotiated a major contract.

Ideally, these situations would be resolved calmly. But, often they are complicated by feelings of nervousness, stress, defensiveness, or even anger. And, though we may try to hide them, these emotions often show through in our body language.

For example, if someone is exhibiting one or more of the following behaviors, he will likely be disengaged, disinterested or unhappy (see figure 1):

  • Arms folded in front of the body.
  • Minimal or tense facial expression.
  • Body turned away from you.
  • Eyes downcast, maintaining little contact.

Figure 1.

Body Language

Being aware of these signs can help you to adjust what you say and how you say it, so you can make him feel more at ease and receptive to your viewpoint (see figure 2).

Figure 2.

Body Language

Avoiding Unengaged Audiences

When you need to deliver a presentation, or to collaborate in a group, you want the people around you to be 100 percent engaged.

Here are some “telltale” signs that people may be bored or disinterested in what you’re saying (see figures 3-6):

  • Sitting slumped, with heads downcast.
  • Gazing at something else, or into space.
  • Fidgeting, picking at clothes, or fiddling with pens and phones.
  • Writing or doodling.

Figure 3.

Body Language

Figure 4.

Body Language

Figure 5.

Body Language

Figure 6.

Body Language

When you notice that someone is disengaged, you’re in a better position to do something about it. For example, you can re-engage her by asking her a direct question, or by inviting her to contribute an idea of her own.

How to Project Positive Body Language

When you use positive body language, it can add strength to the verbal messages or ideas that you want to convey, and help you to avoid sending mixed or confusing signals.

In this section, we’ll describe some basic postures that you can adopt to project self-confidence and openness.

Making a Confident First Impression

These tips can help you to adjust your body language so that you make a great first impression:

  • Have an open posture. Be relaxed, but don’t slouch! Sit or stand upright and place your hands by your sides (see figure 7). Avoid standing with your hands on your hips, as this will make you appear larger, which can communicate aggression or a desire to dominate (see figure 8).
  • Use a firm handshake. But don’t get carried away! You don’t want it to become awkward or, worse, painful for the other person. If it does, you’ll likely come across as rude or aggressive.
  • Maintain good eye contact. Try to hold the other person’s gaze for a few seconds at a time. This will show her that you’re sincere and engaged. But, avoid turning it into a staring match! (See figure 9.)
  • Avoid touching your face. There’s a common perception that people who touch their faces while answering questions are being dishonest (see figure 10). While this isn’t always true, it’s best to avoid fiddling with your hair or touching your mouth or nose, particularly if your aim is to come across as trustworthy.

Figure 7.

Body Language

Figure 8.

Body Language

Figure 9.

Body Language

Figure 10.

Body Language

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Public Speaking

Positive body language can also help you to engage people, to mask presentation nerves, and to project confidence when you speak in public. Here are a few tips that can help you to do this:

  • Have a positive posture. Sit or stand upright, with your shoulders back and your arms unfolded and at your sides or in front of you (see figure 11). Don’t be tempted to put your hands in your pockets, or to slouch, as this will make you look disinterested.
  • Keep your head up. Your head should be upright and level (see figure 12). Leaning too far forward or backward can make you look aggressive or arrogant.
  • Practice and perfect your posture. You’d practice your presentation beforehand, so why not practice your body language, too? Stand in a relaxed manner, with your weight evenly distributed. Keep one foot slightly in front of the other – this will help you to maintain your posture (see figure 13).
  • Use open hand gestures. Spread your hands apart, in front of you, with your palms facing slightly toward your audience. This indicates a willingness to communicate and to share ideas (see figure 14). Keep your upper arms close to your body. Take care to avoid overexpression, or people may pay more attention to your hands than to what you’re saying.

Figure 11.

Body Language

Figure 12.

Body Language

Figure 13.

Body Language

Figure 14.

Body Language


If you notice that your audience’s concentration is starting to slip, try to lean slightly forward while you speak. This suggests that you are taking them into your confidence and will help you to regain their attention.

Interviews, Negotiations and Reflection

Body language can also help you to stay calm in situations where emotions have the potential to run high – a negotiation, for example, or a performance review. Use the following tips to defuse tension and demonstrate openness:

  • Use mirroring. If you can, subtly mirror the body language of the person you’re talking to. This will make him feel more at ease, and can build rapport. But don’t copy every gesture that he makes, as this will likely make him feel uncomfortable, or that you’re not taking him seriously.
  • Relax your body. It can be difficult to keep emotions at bay, particularly in nerve-wracking situations such as an interview or appraisal. But you can maintain the appearance of calm by keeping your hands still, and by avoiding fidgeting with your hair or touching your face.
  • Look interested. As we suggested above, touching your face or mouth can signal dishonesty. But, it can also demonstrate that you’re thinking. So, if you are asked a complex question, it’s OK to briefly touch your cheek or stroke your chin. This will show the other person that you’re reflecting on your answer before you respond (see figure 15).

Figure 15.

Body Language


While the tips covered in this article are a good general guide for intepreting body language, it’s important to remember that they won’t necessarily apply to everyone. This is particularly the case if someone has a different cultural background from you, for instance.

Avoid making generalized assumptions. If you’re getting mixed signals, check that your interpretation of the person’s body language is correct by asking him questions and getting to know him better. After all, the ability to interpret body language is a complementary skill, not a substitute for listening to and understanding people.

Key Points

Body language refers to the nonverbal signals that you use to communicate your feelings and intentions. It includes your posture, your facial expressions, and your hand gestures.

The ability to understand and to interpret body language can help you to pick up on unspoken issues, problems or negative feelings that other people might have. You can also use it in a positive way to add strength to your verbal messages.

Negative body language includes:

  • Folded arms.
  • Tense facial expression.
  • Body turned away from you.
  • Poor eye contact.

Positive body language includes:

  • Open body position (arms unfolded).
  • Upright posture.
  • Relaxed and open facial expression.
  • Arms hanging relaxed by the sides.
  • Regular eye contact.


How to Avoid a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

How to Avoid a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

If thoughts ranging from “I can’t do this” or “I’ll never be successful” run through your mind regularly, you could be programming yourself to fail if you’re not careful. Self-fulfilling prophecies can derail your success and trick you into taking action that prevents you from […]

7 Sneaky Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

7 Sneaky Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

In our seemingly always-on society, there’s great temptation to shortchange sleep. But sleep is a vital driver of every physiological system in the human body, and when we’re deprived of shuteye, health and wellbeing can suffer in myriad ways. Here, 7 signs it’s time to […]

The 8 foods everyone over 40 should eat: Tomatoes, cherries and oats – the diet essentials for the 40-plus club

The 8 foods everyone over 40 should eat: Tomatoes, cherries and oats – the diet essentials for the 40-plus club

We can afford to be a little cavalier with our diets when we are young. But once we reach 40 – as Hollywood actor Jude Law will later this year – the way our bodies cope with everything we eat begins to change.

Studies suggest that the amount of energy burnt while resting begins to drop by the age of 30, and by a further seven per cent with every subsequent decade, so if you continue eating as you did in your 20s, you’ll start putting on weight.

From our fourth decade onwards, the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes becomes a concern – lead an unhealthy lifestyle and your cholesterol levels and blood pressure will rise. The good news is there are foods proven to fight these concerns. Here are the items I would advise everyone over 40 to stock up on.

Jerry Hall - fabulous over 40
Over 40 - Jude law
Singer Gwen Stefani attends the world premiere of My Valentine

Looking trim: Jude law, centre, is about to join Jerry Hall, left, and Gwen Stefani, right, in the 40-plus club


Top grain: Oats help reduce cholesterol

Top grain: Oats help reduce cholesterol

WHY? Oats contain beta-glucans, a soluble fibre that can help lower the unwanted form of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Avenanthramides – antioxidants unique to oats – protect against atherosclerosis (the build-up of plaque on artery walls), so giving oats an advantage over other grains.

THE EVIDENCE: Researchers conclude that eating just 3g of oats daily is enough to reduce total cholesterol by five to ten per cent.

It is estimated that the risk of developing heart disease drops by two per cent for every one per cent reduction in total cholesterol.

This is a must for the 50-plus group, as it is in this decade that heart-disease risk shoots up.

HOW TO EAT: Either as porridge or by adding a heaped tablespoon to plain yogurt.


WHY? Cherries are useful in combating several conditions common in middle age, including gout and arthritis. They are a rich source of the antioxidant anthocyanin.

THE EVIDENCE: Gout, which affects mainly men, is linked to raised levels of uric acid, forming crystals within the small joints. In a trial, researchers gave healthy participants 200g of cherries at breakfast. They noted that the rate at which uric acid was excreted increased by 60 per cent.

HOW TO EAT: Eat a dozen cherries or drink a glass of unsweetened juice three or four times a week. Eat fresh with yogurt or seeds to ensure absorption of the beneficial vitamins.

Almonds benefit blood sugar levels
Cherries benefit over 40's

Wonder foods: Almonds could help stave off diabetes and cherries help combat gout and arthritis


WHY? Benefits range from improved blood-sugar levels to reducing cholesterol.

THE EVIDENCE: A study revealed that 20 adults eating 60g of almonds daily for four weeks showed a nine per cent reduction in blood-sugar, suggesting almonds could offer protection against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Another study took 22 adults and replaced about a third of their usual sources of fat with almonds. After six weeks they noted a six per cent reduction in ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, while their ‘good’ HDL cholesterol increased by six per cent.

HOW TO EAT: Choose plain varieties as excess salt can lead to raised blood pressure.


WHY? Omega 3 fats in these fish can help lower heart rate and blood pressure, and reduce the risk of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

THE EVIDENCE: The best sources of omega 3 fats are salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and herring. A trial found that women who ate oily fish on a regular basis experienced the lowest incidence of strokes. Fish must be eaten at least four times a week for optimal benefits.

HOW TO EAT: Omega 3 fats are sensitive to high temperatures, so cook on a low heat or steam lightly. Eating raw fish such as sashimi will protect the beneficial fats.

Omega 3: Herring, salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are recommended sources of Omega 3

Omega 3: Herring, salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are recommended sources of Omega 3


WHY? Isoflavones in soy beans have been linked to lowering cholesterol, increasing bone density in post-menopausal women and improving male fertility.

THE EVIDENCE: In a study, 42 post-menopausal women over the age of 50 were given three 30g servings of soy beans daily.

Beans for bones: Soy-rich beans should be consumed two-three times a week to improve bone density

Beans for bones: Soy-rich beans should be consumed two-three times a week to improve bone density

After 12 weeks it was noted that high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the good type of cholesterol, had increased by 3.7 per cent while total cholesterol had reduced by 5.5 per cent.

Levels of the protein osteocalcin also increased in the blood, benefiting bone density.

HOW TO EAT: Consume fresh edamame beans or soy beans in cans.

They should be eaten twice or three times a week.

Soy can influence hormone levels and over-consumption is not recommended for pre-menopausal women without the advice of an endocrinologist.

In men, the isoflavones can have a mild effect on testosterone.


WHY? Tomatoes are an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene. They offer a degree of protection against the formation and spread of cancer cells as well as protecting arteries from atherosclerosis.

THE EVIDENCE: Research has shown that drinking 150ml of tomato juice after 20 minutes of exercise offers protection against prostate, lung and stomach cancers and heart disease.

HOW TO EAT: Lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body when the sources are cooked, so cooked tomato, in its many forms, is the most convenient way to benefit from lycopene. Look for juice, passata, puree or sauce (fresh, not sweetened).

Whole milk is a great source of calcium
Chicken helps maintain weight at a healthy level

Stay lean: Both milk and chicken help maintain muscle mass and help maintain a healthy weight


WHY? Full-fat milk can help combat the reduction in muscle mass associated with getting older, especially after the age of 50.

THE EVIDENCE: A 2006 study found that drinking full-fat milk after exercise helped ensure that muscle mass was enhanced.

Whole milk contains 118mg of calcium per 100ml, which is essential for bone health as well as assisting blood-clotting.

The daily recommended intake of calcium is about 1,000mg for men and 1,200mg for women. Eating green vegetables, nuts and seeds in addition to whole milk is an effective way to achieve this.

HOW TO EAT: Whole milk can be added to porridge, cereals, tea, coffee and smoothies. Get professional advice before taking a calcium supplement – for example, taking too much can increase prostate cancer risk in men.


WHY? This is a great source of protein – one 200g skinless breast provides 60g. Helps contribute to effective weight-management and muscle-building.

THE EVIDENCE: A study in 2010 revealed that a ‘moderate increase in protein’ resulted in maintenance of weight loss compared with higher-carbohydrate diets.

Chicken soup might also be able to combat the common cold. As a skinless chicken breast contains only 1g of saturated fat, it is a useful alternative to red meat.

HOW TO EAT: Cut the fat content by removing the skin (breast is 17 per cent fat with skin on, and about two per cent without). The leg, even with the skin off, contains six per cent fat.

Protection: Tomatoes have been proven effective in staving off cancer if consumed after exercise

Protection: Tomatoes have been proven effective in staving off cancer if consumed after exercise

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7 Ways to Stay Healthy After 40

7 Ways to Stay Healthy After 40

Age 40 is a milestone when the risk of many health conditions increases. This makes the birthday a perfect time for taking stock of your health, experts say. Whether people have demanding jobs, aging parents, growing children or all of the above, it’s easy to […]

9 Ways To Be More Positive

9 Ways To Be More Positive

Life is easy with a positive attitude, wouldn’t you agree? Well, easier at least. One of my favorite sites, The Ririan Project, has a list of ways to perk up that disposition, if you need to. I’ve always been amazed by some people’s insistance on […]

10 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Incredibly Happy

10 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Incredibly Happy

It’s easy to think of happiness as a result, but happiness is also a driver.

One example: While I’m definitely into finding ways to improve personal productivity (whether a one-day burst, or a lifetime, or things you should not do every day), probably the best way to be more productive is to just be happier. Happy people accomplish more.

Easier said than done though, right?

Actually, many changes are easy. Here are 10 science-based ways to be happier from Belle Beth Cooper, Content Crafter at Buffer, the social media management tool that lets you schedule, automate, and analyze social media updates.

Here’s Beth:

1. Exercise: 7 Minutes Could Be Enough

Think exercise is something you don’t have time for? Think again. Check out the  7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. That’s a workout any of us can fit into our schedules.

Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it is an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In a study cited in Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. The results of this study are surprising: Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels early on, the follow-up assessments proved to be radically different:

The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent.

You don’t have to be depressed to benefit from exercise, though. Exercise can help you relax, increase your brain power, and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.

We’ve explored exercise in depth before, and looked at what it does to our brains, such as releasing proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier.

A study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies even when they saw no physical changes:

Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 minutes exercising and 6 × 40 minutes reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before.

Yep: Even if your actual appearance doesn’t change, how you feel about your body does change.

2. Sleep More: You’ll Be Less Sensitive to Negative Emotions

We know that sleep helps our body recover from the day and repair itself and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out sleep is also important for happiness.

In NutureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects positivity:

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket.”

The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task throughout the course of a day, researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive to negative emotions like fear and anger.

Using a face recognition task, here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. However, an intervening nap blocked and even reversed this negative emotional reactivity to anger and fear while conversely enhancing ratings of positive (happy) expressions.

Of course, how well (and how long) you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up, which can make a difference to your whole day.

Another study tested how employees’ moods when they started work in the morning affected their entire work day.

Researchers found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers’ moods.

And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees did and how well they did it.

3. Spend More Time With Friends/Family: Money Can’t Buy You Happiness

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying.

If you want more evidence that time with friends is beneficial for you, research proves it can make you happier right now, too.

Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel.

I love the way Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explains it:

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

George Vaillant is the director of a 72-year study of the lives of 268 men.

In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

He shared insights of the study with Joshua Wolf Shenk at The Atlantic on how men’s social connections made a difference to their overall happiness:

Men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Socio-Economics states than your relationships are worth more than $100,000:

Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.

I think that last line is especially fascinating: Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. So we could increase our annual income by hundreds of thousands of dollars and still not be as happy as we would if we increased the strength of our social relationships.

The Terman study, covered in The Longevity Project, found that relationships and how we help others were important factors in living long, happy lives:

We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest.

Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

4. Get Outside More: Happiness is Maximized at 57°

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor recommends spending time in the fresh air to improve your happiness:

Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…

This is pretty good news for those of us who are worried about fitting new habits into our already-busy schedules. Twenty minutes is a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break.

A UK study from the University of Sussex also found that being outdoors made people happier:

Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.

The American Meteorological Society published research in 2011 that found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity, or even the average temperature over the course of a day. It also found that happiness is maximized at 57 degrees (13.9°C), so keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 minutes of fresh air.

The connection between productivity and temperature is another topic we’ve talked about more here. It’s fascinating what a small change in temperature can do.

5. Help Others: 100 Hours a Year is the Magic Number

One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

If we go back to Shawn Achor’s book again, he says this about helping others:

…when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities–such as concerts and group dinners out–brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness.

The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study that explored this very topic:

Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.

So spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. But what about spending our time on other people?

A study of volunteering in Germany explored how volunteers were affected when their opportunities to help others were taken away:

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall but before the German reunion, the first wave of data of the GSOEP was collected in East Germany. Volunteering was still widespread. Due to the shock of the reunion, a large portion of the infrastructure of volunteering (e.g. sports clubs associated with firms) collapsed and people randomly lost their opportunities for volunteering. Based on a comparison of the change in subjective well-being of these people and of people from the control group who had no change in their volunteer status, the hypothesis is supported that volunteering is rewarding in terms of higher life satisfaction.

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

6. Practice Smiling: Reduce Pain, Improve Mood, Think Better

Smiling can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts–such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital–improve their mood and withdraw less.

Of course it’s important to practice “real smiles” where you use your eye sockets. (You’ve seen fake smiles that don’t reach the person’s eyes. Try it. Smile with just your mouth. Then smile naturally; your eyes narrow. There’s a huge difference in a fake smile and a genuine smile.)

According to PsyBlog, smiling can improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks:

Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.

A smile is also a good way to reduce some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances:

Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).

7. Plan a Trip: It Helps Even if You Don’t Actually Take One

As opposed to actually taking a holiday, simply planning a vacation or break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Lifeshowed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as people enjoy the sense of anticipation:

In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks. After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

Shawn Achor has some info for us on this point, as well:

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.

If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar–even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then, whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

8. Meditate: Rewire Your Brain for Happiness

Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity, and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness:

In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.

Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it’s been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. According to Achor, meditation can actually make you happier long-term:

Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.

The fact that we can actually alter our brain structure through mediation is most surprising to me and somewhat reassuring that however we feel and think today isn’t permanent.

9. Move Closer to Work: A Short Commute is Worth More Than a Big House

Our commute to work can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to commute twice a day at least five days a week makes it unsurprising that the effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.

According to The Art of Manliness, having a long commute is something we often fail to realize will affect us so dramatically:

… while many voluntary conditions don’t affect our happiness in the long term because we acclimate to them, people never get accustomed to their daily slog to work because sometimes the traffic is awful and sometimes it’s not.

Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert put it, “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.”

We tend to try to compensate for this by having a bigger house or a better job, but these compensations just don’t work:

Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute.

10. Practice Gratitude: Increase Happiness and Satisfaction

This is a seemingly simple strategy but I’ve personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you’re grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.

In an experiment where participants took note of things they were grateful for each day, their moods were improved just from this simple practice:

The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the three studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

The Journal of Happiness studies published a study that used letters of gratitude to test how being grateful can affect our levels of happiness:

Participants included 219 men and women who wrote three letters of gratitude over a 3 week period. Results indicated that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction while decreasing depressive symptoms.

Quick Final Fact: Getting Older Will Actually Make You Happier

As we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend to naturally grow happier. There’s still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have a few ideas:

Researchers, including the authors, have found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less.

Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods–for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over unachieved goals, and focus their goals on greater well being.

So if you thought getting old will make you miserable, it’s likely you’ll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now.

How cool is that?

The 40 Best Ways to Conquer Your 40s

The 40 Best Ways to Conquer Your 40s

A little more than 100 years ago, the average human didn’t live past their mid-40s. These days, being in your 40s means you may not even be halfway done. So, are you living a life in full? Are you prepping for a lifetime of the […]

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A little more than 100 years ago, the average human didn’t live past their mid-40s. These days, being in your 40s means you may not even be halfway done. So, are you living a life in full? Are you prepping for a lifetime of the same? We’ve compiled a list of 40 things to do to make the most of your 40s—it’s the new 30s, after all—and set the stage for many healthy and successful decades beyond. And to ensure you see most of those decades, don’t miss the 100 Ways to Live to 100.

keep calm relax get to it chill out look younger

Correct your course

If you haven’t already, take a moment to decide if how you live your life is in a way that complements who you are today. It’s easy to get stuck in routines without realizing that they no longer deliver like they used to. Are you fulfilled in your job, with your romantic life, your friendships? Is it time to re-evaluate?

woman infinity pool vacation

Visit your dream destination

Being in your 40s means being established enough to afford the things you’ve always wanted to do—and being young enough to enjoy them. This is the time that you can hang on Ipanema Veach, look good, eat well, and stay at a nice place. You’re neither broke nor look like a bag of wrinkles. Take advantage of it. Need ideas on where to head? Check out the 5 Best Exotic Getaways for 2018.

single button suit

Dress your age

Reaching the fifth decade leads some of us to cling onto our youth by dressing younger. Bad move. “Dressing younger only serves to highlight your advancing years,” says Alex Wilcox, co-proprietor of New York clothing store Lord Willy’s. “You end up looking like a old head on a young body. This is in contrast to dressing classic—albeit with a few playful little touches—which tends to do the opposite.”

Man and woman running

Train for something

It needn’t be an Ironman, but having a target that isn’t tied to your career or finances is an excellent way to stay vital. You might even discover that you have more stamina and endurance than you did in your 20s and 30s. For ways to make the most of your training, learn the 10 Best Ways to Build Muscle Quickly.

private jet interior, celebrities not like us

Travel first class, or Uber a private plane

Flying internationally? The first-class experience is certain to make every coach flight from here on out a living hell, but sitting up front is the only way to see what all the fuss is about. LAX to Melbourne, Australia, on Qantas could set you back almost $15,000. LAX to Dubai on Emirates will be double that. Unless you have that sort of dough handy, figure out a credit card that delivers optimal airline rewards. It’s also easier and more affordable than ever to grab a seat on a private plane (or nab one for yourself). Check out the details in How to Uber a Private Plane!

How to write a check with a fountain pen up close; over 40, things old people say

Support a cause

What do you stand for? It’s time to put your money, time and/or effort where your mouth is. Instead of commenting on an issue that you’re passionate about from the sidelines, have the courage of your convictions and make the difference you want to see.

personal stylist

Hire a personal stylist

Your 20s were a time to experiment with personal style. Your 30s were a time to get comfortable with your look while making important life moves. Your 40s are time to take the results of that success and reinvest it in you. See a look you’d like to emulate in a magazine. Rip it out, put it your pocket. Once you’ve collected a half-dozen, step into a top menswear store near you, develop a relationship with a salesperson, and be prepared to plunk down a not-insignificant amount of moolah on clothes. Don’t worry: Pieces from this splurge should serve you well into your dotage.

surprise your spouse

Eat at a 3-Star Michelin restaurant

Chefs consider a 3-star rating from Michelin to be the holy grail, white whale, and pot of gold combined. It’s not going to be cheap, and getting a reservation will be a royal pain in the butt, but experiencing the zenith of fine dining is something that’s now within your reach. Pick a special dining companion and savor every moment. And for more on these exalted establishments, learn What Chefs Truly Think of Michelin Stars.

Flirting flirt improve your sex life,

Flirt with confidence

A funny thing happens when you get to 40. You start to feel very comfortable in your own skin (especially if you adhere to the advice contained within this handy list). That ease is appreciated more than you’d think, especially by women a few years younger. As are your high-quality, well-fitting clothes, your experienced face, your physique (which you’ve spent years on), your depth of knowledge, and your humility. Realize that you now have many qualities that are extremely appealing to the opposite gender, even those you considered out of your league when you were younger. So give a compliment, make a joke, ask for a number (if you’re single).

tailor making a suit

Have a bespoke suit made

A bespoke suit is certainly an investment, but it can start to pay dividends immediately. Begin with a navy suit, then a light gray one, in a classic cut on the slim side. Have it tailored to accentuate the broadness of your shoulders and narrowness of your waist.

maximum age elderly couple

Treat your parents

We’re not talking about a dinner here or there. Send your folks on a trip somewhere they’ve always wanted to go while they’re still able to fully enjoy it. You’ll never regret it.

be smarter with money in 2018

Research your family tree

Rogues, adventurers, lovers, scoundrels—give your family tree a good shake, and all kinds of fascinating characters are bound to drop out. We live at a time in which resources for looking back at who we are and where our people came from abound, such as and 23andme. Having a sense of who these people were may give you a new perspective on who you are, the choices you make—and, crucially, where you might be heading.

zebras on a safari

Go on an African safari

Sure, you’ll see elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo, giraffes, hyenas, gazelles, and all sorts of exotic wildlife. But even if you’re from Dubuque, Poughkeepsie, or Paducah, you’ll feel an eerie sense of homecoming on the savanna. Sub-Saharan Africa is where modern humans got our start, and experiencing the landscape that would be recognizable to our ancient forebears will give you a sense of awe and wonder.

Hypnotherapy, sex

Prevent bed death

Don’t let the spark in the bedroom die out. Keep things lively, and you’ll (both) be happier for it. Need ideas? Try out any of the 30 Sex Toys That Are Guaranteed to Spice Up Your Love Life.

manhattan cocktail

Master at least five cocktails

Be a host with the most and excite your guests who visit your home. Practice making four classics until putting them together becomes second nature, then create and name a memorable house cocktail (bonus points if you can tell a compelling story about what inspired this particular combination of flavors). Being able to create a special shared sensory moment, seemingly out of thin air, will give you the air of any gathering’s most interesting person for decades to come. For ideas, check out the 20 Cocktails Everyone Should Know How to Make.

Rolls Royce

Attain the formerly unattainable

Remember when you wanted that Gibson Les Paul, that vintage Vespa, or that crazy weekend in Vegas, but could only dream of having the money? Those days are gone. Now that you have a healthy bank balance, revisit your old want list. Anything on there still look tasty? Snag it.


Do that thing you used to love

When you were younger, you loved playing basketball. Or you jammed in a band. Or you went snowboarding every year. Life can get in the way of doing the things that make us light up. Make a point of reclaiming the things that made you feel alive. You’ll feel—and look—all the more vibrant for it.

skiing child

Sponsor a child

Whether you do or don’t have kids of your own, sponsoring a needy child is a way you can absolutely change lives for the better. You’ve done well in life. Give someone a fighting chance to do well for themselves.

learn a new language

Learn a second language

The English-speaking people have been great at spreading their armies, commercial interests, and hodgepodge language around the globe, and they have been for centuries. One unfortunate byproduct of that: Most native English speakers are only fully conversant in their mother tongue. Language informs how we think, and learning another language gives us a richer way to experience the external and internal world. To pick up a second tongue like it’s second nature, master the Secret Trick For Learning A New Language Quickly.

ghost lighting is a phrase people under 40 use

Make amends

At this stage in your life, feeling butt-hurt about something someone did to you is beneath you. Letting them know that you’re over it is the ultimate baller move. In one fell swoop, you’ll free the bandwidth their infraction has been taking up in your brain ever since they drunkenly slighted you, and reclaim the power they’ve had over you ever since.

calling the hotel early can get you a room upgrade

Start thinking about your funeral, and make it better

If you’re an American in your 40s, you’re likely halfway through this crazy thing called life. Now is a good time to spare some thought for your legacy. We’re not talking about your estate, or your kids if you have them, but how people will remember you. Think about being an invisible presence at your own wake. What do you want to hear people say? This is the decade to start creating a sentiment you’d be happy with. The remainder of your life will be all the better for it.

Sex, last longer, in bed

Have the best sex of your life

You’ve had years of practice. Don’t let it go to waste. Need to heat things up? Try out any of the 60 Sex Positions That Will Set Your Sheets on Fire.

blood pressure becomes a talking point after 40

Get routine about preventative medicine

Now’s the time to systematically plan and schedule doctor’s visits to prevent bad stuff from happening. Maybe you’ll go to the doctor for a yearly physical around Memorial Day, have a dental exam the week before the first regular-season NFL game, and another just after the Super Bowl. Get your moles mapped around Labor Day, and your eyes checked every time there’s a congressional election.

friends at dinner conversationalist laughing

Make some new friends

Most of us make lifelong friends in young adulthood. We’re out in the world, we’re doing stuff, we’re full of piss and vinegar, so it stands to reason. Being married and having kids can preclude making connections with other people, and that’s a shame. The next time you meet someone whose company you enjoy, invite them out for a drink.

phrases women over 40 should stop using

Ensure you have enough life insurance

Go goth for a minute and pretend you’re dead. Will your dependents have enough money to maintain their current lifestyle? Basically, if you support people, you need life insurance. And you might need more than you figured when you were a newlywed or had your first child, which is when most of us buy policies. And according to, 25 percent of us have none. Today, the general guideline is: Have enough insurance to cover 5 to 10 times of your annual income. (Use the calculator at to pin that down.) And always buy term life insurance—whole life policies come with high fees and cancellation penalties that can drain you dry.

best budgeting apps

Rebalance your retirement accounts

As time ticks on, you should move the allocations in your 401k or IRA from aggressive (stocks) toward the more conservative (bonds). Your forties are the time to start. The golden rule: Subtract your age from 110 or 120; that’s the percentage of your retirement fund that should be in stocks. To pin things down further, use this asset allocation calculator from

listening to podcasts together can help couples relax

Go on a diet

The average man gains five pounds every decade after 35. But the best way to prevent that isn’t through starvation or deprivation. It’s through healthy eating. For ideas on where to start, try the 10 Healthiest Carbs You Should Be Eating.

boat, yacht, second date ideas

Make $1 million

The book The Eventual Millionaire recently released a study of millionaires and the common qualities they hold: They’ve all started their own business. Your 40s are the perfect time to strike out on your own: You’ve mastered your industry, you have contacts, you’ve still got the passion. And there’s the practical aspect: At 40, you’re likely to have at least 40 more years of life (and expenses) to look forward to. Could you handle disruption in your industry? Do you want to be the guy who’s always worried about losing his livelihood?

Graduate degree

Button up your kids’ college fund

Start one now, if you haven’t already. But remember that retirement savings come first.

paloff press abs woman

Preserve and increase your muscle mass

Prepare to be that 81-year-old who runs marathons. Your 40s are the time to start. After the age of 40, inactive people lose 3 to 5 percent of their muscle mass every decade. The good news: You can prevent that by strength training. Research shows that using weights, resistance bands, or kettlebells two to three times a week can substantially improve your muscle mass in three to six months.

A man drinking whiskey, first heart attack

Drink great whiskey

How many features have you seen on the news about octogenarians, or people who’ve crossed the century mark, who attribute their long life to good whiskey? It’s no coincidence: Studies show that people who drink moderately live longer than those who don’t, and have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and stroke than teetotalers. And it’s better to develop a taste for whiskey than wine: The amber spirit contains no added sugar.

Coins in jar

Tax yourself

Save 10-15% of your income before day-to-day expenses. Have it direct-deposited into a separate bank account. When you get a raise, stick it in the bank.

being single

Don’t look back

No one’s talking about the one drug that hooks most fortysomethings: nostalgia. Commonly found on YouTube, in toy stores, and at the movie theater, it offers a temporary hit of comfort and security, but side effects are guaranteed to include hours lost, sexual partners unmet, and a walk of shame to the bathroom, after three hours of watching 1980s TV show openings. Rather than rewatch old shows, star in your own set this year.

being single

Use social media

Tech gets younger as you get older. To quote Gary Vaynerchuk, live in the white spaces where the audience lives. Learn Snapchat. Study Tinder. Because you’ll be more hirable, relevant, and seem younger—and be able to understand the new generations who’ll be working with (and for) you.

Marriage, couple, sex stressed out

Make a retirement plan, man

And this time, we’re not talking about stocks, bonds, and 403(b)s. This is about vision: What do you want your life to look like in your 60s, 70s, and beyond? We’re living longer than ever—at 40, you probably have 40 more years of active life ahead—but we tend to fixate on financial worries. Although you’ve got to square away your income, you still deserve to do what’ll make you happy. How do you see it at that age? Visualize that, and start working toward that now.

woman happy to be alive. At beach. Happiness is great for longevity. stressed out

Grow your mind

Although the idea of brain exercise is controversial, it can’t hurt, and it’s easy to do. Neurobiologist Lawrence C. Katz, PhD, author of Keep Your Brain Alive, suggests mixing up your routine with actions that engage more than one of your senses simultaneously, which strengthens the connections between areas of the brain. It’s as simple as eating different foods, increasing social interactions, identifying different smells and sights along your route to work, or changing your usual seat at the dinner table.

clean sleeping

Get naked more

Science says sleeping naked can lead to a longer life. (Just keep your unmentionables by the bed and a lock on your bedroom door.) According to studies, sleeping naked can boost your levels of anti-aging and growth hormones. Researchers have found that as we sleep, our bodies cool slightly, which causes reparative growth hormones to be released. If you’re too warm, you get less. Being cooler also reduces your level of cortisol, the stress hormone. High levels can lead to overeating, diabetes and inflammation. Plus, sleeping naked with a partner can lead to more intimacy (sexual and otherwise), which releases oxytocin, which reduces cortisol, lowers blood pressure and soothes inflammation (the kind you don’t want—in your gut).

over 40 myth

Pretend you’re an old person looking back on your life

What advice would you give yourself? Start following it.

cupcakes eating gluten-free is a weight loss secret that doesn't work

Have a cheat event

We’re not talking about sexual fidelity. Just as having a cheat day once a week makes your workout and diet plan more efficient and successful, rewarding yourself with something indulgent will give you something to look forward to all year. It doesn’t have to be a boat.

Buy a boat

Oh, go ahead.

The 40 Best Ways to Conquer Your 40s