Have you ever noticed that good feeling you get from a nice stretch in the morning?
Our minds and emotions react to our bodies. Holding a smile for a few seconds, even a fake one, creates a positive emotional response. Standing in a powerful pose, such as super woman stance, makes us feel more powerful. Stretching our arms towards the sky with closed fists, as if we just crossed the finish line, increases confidence.
By expanding ourselves physically we trigger reactions in the mind to produce hormones such as testosterone, while lowering stress hormones such as cortisol.
With a rise in testosterone and a lowering of cortisol our level of assertiveness is increased. This means more self control, better reactions when facing adversity, and an overall boost in confidence.
If you are feeling a little dubious about raising your testosterone levels, fear not. You won’t be growing more hair, lowering your voice, or any other stereotypical effects associated with the unnatural boosting of testosterone. Your body will only increase your personal hormone levels to appropriate levels for you, assuming your body is in general working order. Please consult a physician if you are unsure.
Amy Cuddy’s TED talk beautifully explains this concept in more detail. Her new book “Presence” is an even more in depth look at the subject of not only body language, but how we can use body language along with other tactics to be more present in our everyday lives.
The mind body connection has been utilized for centuries, but it is only recently that scientists have eagerly been diving into the subject.
Yoga is a prime example of the benefits of the mind body connection, and the practice goes back thousands of years. Yoga combines fitness, meditation, and breathing exercises reducing stress, improving hormone levels, and increasing overall fitness.
Let’s take a look at one of the moves the average yoga routine has you in for extended periods. A popular pose called Upward Dog has the yogi laying on their stomachs, hands beneath the shoulders, pressing upwards. This pose stretches out the front of the body, expanding the chest, stomach, and shoulders. Couple this with the deep breathing exercises built into yoga and you have yourself a powerful way to enhance your mood.
The same benefits that yogi’s get from yoga can be had without the price tag.
Breathing is one of the most direct ways we can use the body to effect the mind and emotions. By directly controlling the breathing we can easily calm ourselves down, think more clearly on a subject, or just disconnect ourselves from knee jerk emotional reactions.
Try it: breath in through the nose over the course of ~5 seconds, and then slowly breath out through the mouth for another 5 seconds. Repeat this for a few breaths and your heart will begin to slow, triggering a reduction in stress hormones throughout the body.
The mind and body are both very closely connected.
The various ways of holding ourselves all have evolutionary purposes. When we were in danger we might curl up to protect vital organs. When we needed to look big and show our dominance towards predators we would spread ourselves out, boosting our confidence in case of physical distress. While the modern world is devoid of most predators, we are still subject to stressors that trigger these evolutionary responses.
The mind has a direct effect on the body, but the body also has a direct effect on the mind.
Our emotions are also affected by the way we hold our bodies. When we spread ourselves out, our minds react in order to make us feel more powerful. We produce more testosterone and lower our levels of cortisol, which improves our assertiveness. When we curl in, our bodies suspect self defense and produce more stress hormones, making us less likely to step out of our comfort zones.
Be aware of how you are positioned while working at your computer or device during the day.
Using your devices can cause you to be bent over constantly, hunched over screens and keyboards. Being hunched forward can increase headaches, reduce energy levels, and can cause you to behave less assertively. If you must spend extended periods with a small device, do your best to hold it up in a way that reduces your head’s forward tilt.
If you must spend extended periods sitting in front of a screen, try getting up a few times every hour to stretch out your body. Expand your chest, straighten your neck, and take a deep breath. It is important to keep your body engaged throughout the day in this information heavy world.
We are emotional creatures, spending most of our days inside our own heads.
This is especially true in the information age, as we spend on average 12+ hours a day consuming content and not physically moving around. We seem to forget about our bodies, or at least our connection to them.
When we are happy we smile, when we are frustrated we frown. When we are depressed we collapse inward and when we are victorious we celebrate by spreading out. When a gymnast finishes their routine, they shoot arms towards the sky in celebration. When a kid in class feels alienated they curl up and hold their arms close to their body, becoming as small as possible.
Take whatever chances you can to spread out, open up and take deep breaths throughout the day.
Amy Cuddy recommends the “Super Woman” stance in front of a mirror for a few minutes to boost confidence. If you enjoy yoga a few sun salutations spread throughout the day can increase energy. Even a simple good morning stretch towards the sky as if you just got out of bed can help improve your mood.
Oh, and most importantly, don’t forget to breath.
Here are some ideas for reminding yourself to practice powerful body language during your day.
-Schedule short breaks on your calendar to stand up, stretch, and breath deeply for at least 2 minutes.
-If using a fitness band, set a repeating timer to remind you to spread yourself out a bit every 15-30 minutes.
-Use built in timers/alarms on your smartphone.
-Team up with a coworker and agree to remind each other to practice power poses a few times each day, or during your breaks. This is sure to induce some smiles, creating an even more positive effect!
-As always, “there’s an app for that” and we encourage you to search through your phone’s app store for any sort of reminder app that works for you.