I’m sure you already know that people can tell if you are not feeling good from your posture. This is what is described as ‘negative body language’. However, it is less well known that this also works in reverse: Your posture influences how you feel. You can make use of this finding and pay attention to your posture in an everyday work context.
Your posture has an – often underestimated – impact on your emotions. It is a known fact that your posture shows how you are feeling – e.g. top athletes display clear physical signs that they are not winning their race or match, as is sometimes the case with the tennis player Stan Wawrinka. That is because a slumped posture can demonstrate a negative frame of mind. But that is not all! If you adopt a poor posture, this will have a negative impact on your emotions.
Why not do a practical exercise to understand what I have just explained: Try putting your head down as far as you can with your chin on your chest. Turn down the corners of your mouth and draw your eyebrows together. Hold that position for a good 30 seconds. Then say out loud: “I am so happy”. It doesn’t really sound convincing, does it?
Let’s now do the reverse. Think about a situation that is currently causing you stress. Begin by adopting a despairing pose – e.g. with your head down or your face in your hands – whatever you would personally do in this situation. Next, close your eyes. Can you think clearly or come up with a solution? Probably not. Now, breathe in deeply and roll your shoulders in both directions, open your eyes, and turn your head from left to right and look around. Then stand up and straighten your body, with your legs apart. How do you feel in this position compared to before? It’s much better, isn’t it? Now say out loud: “I am so happy”.
Be strong thanks to power posing and smiling
The US social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk is widely known: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are. She demonstrated that if you assume a confident posture for just two minutes, you will feel stronger as a result. Your cortisol (stress hormone) level falls and your testosterone level rises. The best‑known power poses are shown in the image above: The victory pose or – for those football fans among you – the stance that Cristiano Ronaldo always adopts before taking a free kick, with legs far apart, ideally complemented with bended arms and hands placed on the hips. Before you have an important meeting, go to the toilet (or somewhere no one can see you …) and invest two minutes in building your strength through power posing.
You can also influence your mood by laughing – not just about a joke or your own slip-up but also by smiling ‘artificially’ for no visible reason. In other words: Just act as if you are laughing. Your brain cannot distinguish between genuine and artificial pleasure. Studies have even shown that artificial smiling can benefit people suffering from depression. This helps to improve their mood. Laughing is used as an independent form of therapy in hospitals and homes for the elderly. In fact, the UK’s National Health Service even provides financial support for laughter therapy. A few years ago, the UK’s Health Minister called on NHS clinics to hire laughter therapists, since they demonstrably have a positive impact on patient health.
Use your body to influence your mood
As you can see, there is a wide variety of ways in which you can influence your mood through your body. Put them to good use! The next time you have an important assignment to complete or you have to go to a meeting or give a presentation, remember to adopt a straight posture, practice power posing beforehand – and smile!
© Claudia Kraaz