A mini-guide to shake off your worries with a positive attitudeFeeling confident and having high self esteem help us to lead a happy life and achieve our goals, and yet sometimes it's all too easy to lack faith in ourselves. This book of simple, easy-to-follow tips provides you with the motivation, tools, and techniques needed for an assertive, can-do attitude that will boost your confidence in everyday life.
About the Author
Anna Barnes is the author of several titles in the 50 Tips series.
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50 Tips To Build Your Confidence
By Anna Barnes
Summersdale Publishers LtdCopyright © 2014 Summersdale Publishers Ltd
All rights reserved.
Keep a confidence diary
In order to understand your confidence issues, take some time to work out what your triggers are, and when your confidence is at its highest or lowest points. Choose a notebook that reflects your personality, be it a simple notepad or an illustrated diary, as you are more likely to want to pick up and use something you like the look of. Keep it where you are most likely to use it – by the bed, in the kitchen, wherever you think you will pick it up; but if you are concerned about a loved one delving into your notes, it could be kept in a drawer or cupboard that is easily accessible. The act of writing down how you feel, and what your confidence levels are like from day to day, will not only help you keep track of what may cause a bout of low confidence, it will also be cathartic. Remember to write down the high points as well as the lows; the diary will give you something to refer back to on low-confidence days, reminding you that things can be better.
Know your triggers
Once you have been keeping your diary for a while, you are likely to start noticing some patterns. It may be that there are certain situations which always knock your confidence, or that talking to a certain friend always gives you a boost. The people and situations which cause your confidence levels to drop are known as 'triggers', and one of the simplest things you can do to help break this cycle of low confidence is to avoid them. A friend who makes you feel bad about yourself is not a true friend; a class which leaves you feeling low is not having a positive effect on your life. If you cannot completely avoid your triggers, then use the tips that follow as a means to cope with them and to gradually change them.
See a more confident you
When starting out on a journey of self-improvement, it can be hard to see what the end result will be. It is easy to become bogged down in the 'what ifs' a situation brings to mind, and this is where visualisation can help. Sitting in a comfortable chair, in a relaxed position, close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing. There is no need to breathe more slowly, just pay attention to your natural breathing patterns. Next, start to build a picture in your head of how a more confident you would look and act. Where are you? Who is with you? Notice the details and enjoy the feeling of confidence from within. While you are working on building your confidence, take this mental image with you and see it as something to look forward to.
Where are you confident?
An important question to ask yourself is, where do you feel most and least confident? This is not just a question of location – although for some people certain places bolster their confidence or make them feel worse – it is more about the areas of your life you feel are at polar opposites where your confidence is concerned. Someone may, for example, feel that they have raised their family well, and be confident as a parent, whilst lacking in confidence when it comes to work. Knowing the areas, both physical and emotional, which affect your confidence can help you to build your confidence levels. At first, situations or places which knock your confidence can be avoided when it is already at a low point, and later you can work on altering the way you perceive and feel about these situations using the tips in this book, particularly those which emphasise mindfulness.CHAPTER 2
Starting to exercise can be daunting, especially if your confidence is already rather low. Joining a gym or going to a group class can seem like the last thing you would want to do. However, exercise can be as simple as going for a walk. Just a half-hour walk each day can significantly improve your health and emotional well-being. You can fit this in on the way to work, at lunchtime or whenever feels right for you. The best walks are in daylight, in natural surroundings. Not only will being outdoors offer a natural boost, helping you feel better and lifting your spirits, but the exercise itself will also produce endorphins, making you feel great, and seeing your body shape start to improve is bound to give your confidence a lift.
Swim towards a more confident you
Swimming is one of the most effective forms of exercise, both in terms of giving you a full-body workout and in allowing you to relax and unwind. The rhythmic lap of the water with each stroke, and the focus on your technique and breathing, really make this a great way to move your mind away from your worries, allowing some quality time to yourself. This alone time can give you a chance to reflect on the positive changes you are making. Add to that the fact that floating in water is a wonderfully soothing experience, and all part and parcel of a trip to the pool, and you've got a perfect recipe for confidence- boosting relaxation.
Try t'ai chi
A 'moving meditation', t'ai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art but is non-combative. It is distinctive for its slow, precise movements, which help improve posture, balance, strength and flexibility. Furthermore, this ancient art is said to promote the healthy flow of energy, or 'qi', throughout the body and to calm the mind. The relaxation and focus that this softer martial art provides, as well as the fact that you do not have to worry about whatever level anyone else is at, can have a very positive effect on your confidence levels, as you feel refreshed, stronger and as though you are working towards your own personal goals.
Get into gardening
As well as being a great way to burn calories, being in the garden is a form of 'green exercise' – activity which takes place in nature – which research shows has even more health and well-being benefits than, say, visits to the gym. Gardening can improve your mood, ease muscle tension and lower blood pressure. Feeling close to nature can give you the boost you need to keep calm under pressure, and the act of pruning, weeding, planting, and finally seeing something grow gives you something to look forward to and feel proud of, which is sure to raise your confidence levels.
Yoga for inner and outer strength
The ancient practice of yoga is not just about bending your body, but also about bringing balance to your mind. Yoga is practised at your own pace, allowing you to take time to really understand what your body can do. It can help with confidence because of the strengthening and toning effect it has on the body, and because of the calming effect it has on the mind. Most classes will finish with yogic sleep, or guided meditation, which can leave you feeling refreshed, happier and more in touch with yourself. If you would rather not attend a class, yoga can be practised at home with the help of books, DVDs or online demonstrations.CHAPTER 3
Eat a balanced diet
Before we look at the specific nutrients that can be beneficial to confidence, it is important to ensure you have a balanced diet. Eating the right amount of calories for your age, height and sex, and ensuring you get enough proteins, fibre and vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables, whilst avoiding too many refined foods, will give you a good basis for general health and well-being. It should also improve digestion, which will make you feel healthier overall.
Say no to alcohol
When feeling low, for example after a hard day at work, or when lacking confidence in a social situation, many people will reach for a drink to help them relax. Alcohol does have an instantly calming effect, but this is negated by the depressant qualities of alcohol, and the feeling of anxiety that can be left behind once the effects wear off. Alcohol can also disturb your sleep, contrary to the popular idea of a 'nightcap'. Try to cut down your drinking as much as possible, and if you do go for a tipple, opt for a small glass of Chianti, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, as the plant chemicals called procyanidins, which are abundant in these particular wines, are beneficial to health, especially cardiovascular health. These wines are also rich in melatonin, the sleep hormone, and a well-rested person is more likely to be a confident person.
Learn to love whole grains
Whilst it can be easy to reach for a cake or biscuit in times of need, the refined flour and sugar combination in these foods can be detrimental to health and cause a wide variety of problems, from poor skin condition to serious illnesses such as diabetes, all of which are bound to have a negative effect on your confidence levels. Instead, try to include more whole grains in your diet. This can be as simple as switching white bread for wholemeal, white rice for whole rice, or choosing a breakfast cereal which contains whole grains. You could also try some of the many interesting grains available by getting creative with your cooking – why not try using quinoa in a salad, or bulgur wheat with a tagine – the combinations are endless.
Perk up with proteins
Lean proteins such as chicken, fish or tofu are a key part of a healthy diet and work as confidence boosters in several ways. Firstly, they keep you feeling fuller for longer, therefore allowing you to eat more sensibly and feel a sense of achievement at improving your diet. Secondly, their amino acids help form neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline, which balance mood and keep you feeling positive. Finally, a protein-rich diet allows for quality healing and muscle building after exercise, helping you to move towards the body you want and body confidence.
Learn about good fats
When trying to eat healthily, it can be easy to see fat as the enemy. Many 'healthy' products are marketed as low fat or fat-free, and we are led to believe that fat makes you fat. This is not entirely true. Fats are an important part of your diet. They are key in neurotransmitter production due to the amino acids they contain, and unsaturated fats are important for healthy skin and hair, which in turn will make you feel more confident about yourself. As long as you get the balance right, and are eating plenty of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as those found in olive oil and seeds, and you are reducing the amount of saturated fat you consume, for example the fats in butter, cheese and red meat, you will start to feel the benefits.
Cut down on caffeine
Caffeine and other similar stimulants should be avoided as much as possible. Many of us rely on that first cup of coffee in the morning to wake us up, or a cup of tea to keep us going at midday, but these caffeinated drinks – along with cola and foods containing caffeine, such as chocolate – could be having an adverse effect on your confidence by increasing your stress levels.
Having a caffeinated drink can make us feel more alert because it induces the initial stages of the stress reaction, boosting cortisol production. Consuming large quantities of caffeine, however, can cause the exhaustion phase of stress and lead to anxiety, which can have a very negative impact on confidence levels. Added to this, caffeine can be very addictive and stopping suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms, which can make you feel physically unwell and emotionally under pressure – not a good combination for confidence. Try cutting down slowly to no more than 300 mg of caffeine a day, that's the equivalent of three mugs of coffee or four mugs of tea. Have fun experimenting with the huge variety of herbal teas and decaffeinated coffees and teas available on the market, and notice the improvement in your mood and ability to cope.
Low confidence can make the body feel stressed, and high levels of stress hormones in your system can have a negative effect on your health, either by lowering your immune system, making you more prone to coughs, colds and other infections, or by over-stimulating it and provoking autoimmune illnesses and inflammation. A simple way to combat these symptoms is to eat plenty of foods rich in the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. These antioxidants help normalise the body and reduce inflammation, whilst boosting immunity.
Vitamin A is found in the form of retinol in products such as fish liver oil and egg yolks. Too much retinol can be bad for health though, so balance this with beta-carotene, found in mainly yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, butternut squash and apricots. Vitamin C is found in good amounts in citrus fruits, broccoli, berries and tomatoes, and vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and wheatgerm. Adding some of these foods to your diet could make you feel healthier and happier, as well as improving the look of your skin and hair, which can help with body confidence.CHAPTER 4
Write away your worries
Everyone will have periods of worry at some point – family, finance, career and health can all be sources of anxiety. Not being able to 'switch off' and continuing to worry about several different things at once can make us feel out of control and therefore knock our confidence. Writing these worries down allows you to voice them, helping you to think more clearly and allowing you to relax more easily. Some people find a further step helpful: if you destroy the paper the worries are listed on by, for example, either ripping it up or throwing it into a fire, you can actually see your worries move from your head, to the paper and then away.
Mindfulness, which has developed from Buddhist teachings, is a technique for living in the here and now, rather than being preoccupied with the past or the future. Stop worrying about what you have or haven't done and all the things you still have to do. Being mindful means living in the moment and truly experiencing what is happening now. A simple way to start would be by altering your route to work slightly so that you pay more attention to your surroundings, rather than being on autopilot.
Taking time to reflect on your environment and situations can put your worries into perspective, where otherwise they might have preoccupied you and caused you stress. Furthermore, you will be paying more attention to the positive aspects of your day and will be more likely to see the areas in which you are doing well. Just seeing that these areas exist can be a huge confidence boost.
Keep it simple
Having too many things going on around you at once can be a major cause of stress, and can give your confidence a knock, particularly if you feel like you cannot get through all the tasks ahead of you. One key example of this is clutter; having too much 'stuff' around you can cause stress as there is always something to think about, something to put away, something to clean (cleaning is harder, too, with so many items to move and clean under or around). Furthermore, this excess of things can make it hard to concentrate on the task at hand, as it causes distractions. De-cluttering, throwing out old items that are no longer of use and giving them to a charity shop or using sites such as Freecycle and eBay is a great first step to simplifying your life, leaving you feeling more in control, less stressed, and more confident in your ability to look after yourself and your home.
Talk to a friend or family member
If you think stresses and worries are affecting your confidence, talking to someone close to you can be a huge help. Vocalising your concerns, and hearing the reassurance and advice of someone whose opinions you trust, can alleviate anxiety and let us see that we are not alone. If you do not have someone to confide in, a counsellor or a service such as the Samaritans can provide the sympathetic ear you seek. The simple act of picking up the phone to talk to someone takes faith and demonstrates that you can be a confident, open person.
Avoid 'catching' stress from your colleagues
For many, the workplace is the most stressful area of their lives. A large amount of workplace stress is so-called 'second-hand' stress. When a colleague is feeling stressed you can unconsciously absorb their feelings of negativity. To avoid this, if a colleague is talking about work or personal problems, try to say something positive about the subject or offer them some advice. If they carry on, perhaps go to make a hot drink, or, if you cannot walk away, make sure you stay positive and try your best not to adopt your colleague's mindset. It takes faith to challenge a colleague's negativity, so as well as reducing stress, this can boost your confidence by showing you that you are capable of taking up such a challenge.
Keep spending sensible
Financial worries are one of today's biggest stressors, with more and more people in debt and/or out of work. Taking control of your finances is a great confidence boost as it helps reduce the stress that can bring your confidence levels down, and it shows that you can take a situation on and improve it. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to cut back on non-essential spending.
Excerpted from 50 Tips To Build Your Confidence by Anna Barnes. Copyright © 2014 Summersdale Publishers Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Summersdale Publishers Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Section One: Understanding Confidence,
Section Two: Exercise for Body Confidence,
Section Three: Fuel Your Confidence,
Section Four: Less Stress = More Confidence,
Section Five: Make Plans and Achieve Your Goals,
Section Six: Treat Yourself Well, Feel Well,
Section Seven: Sleep Better, Feel Better,
Section Eight: The Power of Your Mind,
Section Nine: Consider Therapies,