The reality of the mind-body connection means that you have the ability to change your emotional state by changing your body language. When times are difficult, there are a number of useful body language tools that you can consciously use to feel happier and more confident. Adopting a high-power pose before stressful events, like job interviews, will give you higher levels of testosterone, which are related to confidence and comfortability. The simple act of smiling produces positive neurological changes in our brains. Whenever you are faced with a difficult situation, or just feel down, remember that you can change your emotional state by changing your body language.
The Connection Between our Minds and Bodies
Earlier this week we looked at how our mental states (emotions, thoughts, & feelings) affect our physical health, and how our diet and exercise routines affect our mental well-being. We explored various ways to improve both our mental and physical wellness by utilizing the reality of the mind-body connection. Science has recently proven, that this connection plays a significant role in determining our overall well-being.
Many of the practices that have been developed to aid our mind-body relationship, such as meditation, center around calming the mind. There is also great emphasis put on diet, exercise, and sleep routines, as these will assure that our minds function at the highest possible levels. While it is obviously important to maintain healthy physical routines and keep our mental stresses to a minimum, there are still some unavoidable situations that cause us to react with fear, negativity, and avoidance.
A failed attempt at public speaking all but assures that we will be frightened the next time we go on stage. The cultural belief that job interviews are uncomfortable makes us think fearful thoughts and exhibit nervous behavioral tendencies, such as biting our nails or fidgeting, before an interview. The fear of being rejected, when we enter any social situation, makes us worry and prohibits us from being ourselves.
While diet, exercise, meditation, and other mind-body relaxation techniques can help us maintain our mental and physical health, instances such as these need a more immediate remedy. Luckily, since your mind affect your body and your body affect your mind, you can consciously choose to change your emotional state by changing your body language.
An individual’s body language can tell us a lot about their mental state of being. It would certainly be impossible to find someone who is severely depressed exhibiting open and confident body language. Similarly, someone who is in high spirits wouldn’t exhibit lethargic or slouched body language. This is the reality of the mind-body connection, and by consciously changing our body language alone, we have the ability to change our mental states anywhere, anytime, and anyplace.
Let’s look at how two leading experts, both Ted Talks speakers, have discovered how changing our body language can change our mental states.
Using a Power Pose to Feel Confident
Amy Cuddy is a world-renowned social psychologist who captured the world’s attention with her 2012 Ted Talks speech, “Your Body Language Shapes who you are.” Cuddy, who is an associated professor at the Harvard University, gave the world a massively useful body language tool that can make us feel confident and empowered in as little as 2 minutes. Her speech, which ranks 2nd in Ted Talks popularity, discusses how she, and colleagues, studied the body language of powerful people and conducted experiments to see if individuals could consciously change neural activity, emotional states, and behavioral performance by consciously adopting, ‘high-power poses,’ before stressful situations.
After examining the body language of powerful individuals, Cuddy ran a number of experiments to test out her idea that consciously adopting a, ‘high-power pose,’ can lead to an emotional state change. In one such experiment, her and her team first took saliva samples from university students to measure the levels of two hormones, testosterone and cortisol, before running them through the experiment. Testosterone is a hormone that is produced in the brain and relates to assertiveness, confidence, and comfortability. Cortisol, on the other hand, is a stress reactive hormone. After the initial saliva test was taken, participants were randomly told to adopt a high or low, ‘power pose,’ for two minutes, and then given a questionnaire and an opportunity to gamble (to measure risk), before they were asked to give another sample of the saliva.
The test showed that by simply adopting a high power pose for 2 minutes, the testosterone levels of individuals rose 20%, where as the testosterone levels of participants, who adopted a low power pose, decreased 10%. Similarly, cortisol levels in individuals told to adopt a high power pose decreased 25%, and the levels of cortisol in participants, who adopted the low power pose, increased 15%.
In this short videoclip (3:04), from Cuddy’s Ted Talks speech, she discusses another experiment that shows how individuals can consciously use their body language, before stressful situations, to feel more confident and powerful during that particular event (a job interview in this instance):
To Feel Better, Simply Smile
In another Ted Talks speech, HealthTap Founder and CEO Ron Gutman, discusses scientific research that shows how impactful the simple act of smiling can be on our own lives and those around us. “The Hidden Power of Smiling,” was filmed in 2011, and looks at numerous scientific studies. Guzman starts the talk by discussing how smiling in photographs can predict life fulfillment, marriage satisfaction, and life span.
In this short clip (2:45), Gutman examines Charles Darwin’s Facial Feedback Response Theory and a number of other studies that show how the act of smiling can change our emotional states. As you will soon learn, one smile can produce the same amount of feel good hormones that are produced when eating 2,000 chocolate bars:
Change Your Emotional State by Changing Your Body Language
By understanding the mind-body connection and utilizing it to our advantage, we have the ability to improve our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. When there are situations in life that can be challenging, you can consciously change your emotional state by changing your body language. Cuddy showed us how we can instantly gain confidence when facing a stressful situation, and Gutman showed us how the simple act of smiling changes our brain chemistry.
While diet, exercise, and mind-relaxation techniques can help us maintain a healthy long-term physical and emotional state of being, they aren’t as useful when we life throws us a curveball. To overcome the inevitable challenges that come with life, you can consciously use your body language to change your emotional states in as little as 2 minutes.