How to Open Up

Not everyone approaches their feelings as an open book for others to read. However, closing yourself off from new people and experiences can stunt your personal growth. Learn to open up in order to improve your social and mental health.

Opening Up to People
Understand that there is usually some fear with opening up to other people. Accept this and move on. Give yourself some time to have sweaty palms, a shaky voice or fidgety muscles, since it will get better with practice.

Adopt open body language. Keep your arms and legs uncrossed, while looking directly at a person when they speak to you. You will come across as more positive and open, which can help when looking for people to interact with.

Ask people open-ended questions. To begin practicing opening up, you need to engage in honest, open conversation. Try a question like, “How are things going at work?” instead of “How’s it going?” to get an open
Then, in turn answer open-ended questions with honest answers, instead of “Fine” or “Ok.”

Asking people personal questions is not always appropriate; however, in most cases people are flattered that you are listening to them and interested in their life.

Look for mutual interests. Try connecting about hobbies, interests, family life, vacations or books. When someone mentions something you relate to, say, “Oh, I love that too.” Then, ask follow up questions.

Try group therapy. People who don’t express their emotions very often can find this environment uncomfortable at first, but it is a great way to overcome fear of sharing emotions in public. Most group therapy sessions adopt circular seating and share based on common worries or topics.[2]

Call close friends and family members more often. Schedule at least one long conversation per week where you tell someone about the emotional and difficult part of your life. Get into the practice of opening up about what’s good and bad in your life.

Avoid being a “know it all.” Some people think advice is opening up, but it is unlikely to help you be more open. When you want to give advice, listen and try to learn something new from the situation.

Don’t be so hard on people. A judgmental attitude shows through without saying a word. Try to corral your thoughts and be open minded when someone is sharing their opinions and you may find yourself able to speak more easily to the person.[3] Give people the kind of acceptance and non-judgement you would want when you’re opening up and feeling vulnerable.

Try emulating someone who is very open. Observe them in a social situation. Then, try to act as if you are them occasionally.
Many open behaviors are learned, and not a natural part of personality. In this case, practice can make perfect.

Opening Up to New Experiences
Try saying, “Yes” as a rule. Although the ability to say “No” is essential for anything threatening your safety, it may become the only way you respond to new experiences. Try saying yes to all the invitations you receive this week and all the projects you are offered.

Make a “bucket list.” Instead of choosing the things that you want to do before you die, choose 10 things that you have wanted to do for a while. Give yourself three months to complete your list.
If you can’t think of anything you want to do, try finding a list of 10 great places to eat or visit in your area. Complete these things.

Pretend you’re a tourist in your hometown. Sign up for tours, bus rides or go to events. Few people have opened up to all the possibilities in their region.

Sign up for a class. Learning will open new creative pathways and help you see new possibilities in your life. Try looking for a professional or personal class at the Lifelong Learning Center or library in your town.[4]

Go on vacation. If it’s been a while since you took some time away, you may have forgotten how exhilarating new experiences can be. Take at least five days off to explore a new area.

Change your schedule. There is some truth to the adage “a change is better than a raise,” because people benefit mentally from a physical change. Jog your creativity by exercising later, getting up earlier or commuting a different way.

Find a friend that also wants to engage in new experiences. Have the friend pick some new classes or experiences to try and you do the same.

Sources and Citations
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