It’s widely taught that our body language can give off messages to other people and affect how they view us. For example, we all know that when we go for an interview we should stand up straight, make eye contact and have a firm handshake and the interview panel will perceive us as confident. But, did you know that research is showing us that by changing your body language you can also change how you feel and increase your mood.
Here are 6 ways your body language can improve your mood:
Simply smiling can make you feel better.
I love this piece of research by Fritz Strack who wanted to explore the relationship between our facial expressions and our emotions. In his study, he had two groups. The first group was told to hold a pen between their teeth. The second group was told to put a pen between their lips. As you read this, grab a pen and try the two different positions. What do you notice? Like the participants in group 1 holding the pen in their teeth, you probably noticed that you feel like you are smiling. And like the participants in group 2 with the pen between their lips, you probably feel like you are frowning. With the participants holding the pen in their mouths, he gave all the participants a Far Side comic to read and asked them how funny they thought it was. The participants with a pen between their teeth found the comic much funnier than the ones with a pen stuck between their lips. The results show us that smiling can change how we feel and change how positively we perceive information. A further study in 2014 by the Hannover Medical School in Germany found that botox reduces depression. They wanted to find out if they could improve the condition of patients with depression if their faces displayed less frown lines. So they used Botox, a nerve toxin, which paralyzes the muscles it is injected into. And indeed, 60% of the treated patients experienced a significant improvement in their mood.
2. Sit Up Straight
Many research studies show that sitting up straight can boost your mood and energy. A 2004 study examined the effects of upright and slumped posture on the ability of college students to recall both positive and negative thoughts. Participants were asked to generate both positive and negative thoughts in upright and slouched positions. The results show that it is significantly easier to generate positive thoughts when body posture is upright. At a rate of two to one, participants also reported that negative thoughts were easier to generate in the slumped position than when sitting upright. “When sitting upright and looking upwards, it was difficult and for many almost impossible to recall hopeless, helpless, powerless, and negative memories and easier to recall empowering, positive memories,” the researchers, Erik Peper and I-Mei Lin, reported.
3. Walking With A Positive Posture
We can recognise how someone feels when someone walks with their shoulders slumped and their head hanging down. But researchers were intrigued to know if the reverse is true. Can walking with a positive posture affect how you feel? To find out, Johannes Michalak, et al in 2015 created a study. They asked the participants to walk on a treadmill while trying to match either a sad or cheerful walking style. While these subjects were walking, they were also shown a mixed list of words associated with positive and negative emotions. Afterwards, the scientists asked the study participants to recall as many of the words they had seen as possible. Those who had a happier gait remembered more cheerful words. Those who had walked in a depressed style, more negative ones. The conclusion? How we walk not only influences our mood but actively changes the information we pay attention to.
4. Power posing
One of my personal favourites is from leading body language researcher Amy Cuddy. In her book Presence and also in her TedTalk, Cuddy discusses how body language can be the difference between succeeding and failing at job interviews. She made participants stand in high power poses and low power poses for two minutes before sending them into an interview. She measured their levels of the stress hormone cortisol and the dominance hormone testosterone. The results indicated that those standing in high power poses had increased levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol than those in low power poses. So next time you need to feel confident, either raise your arms in the victory pose or put your hands on your hips like Wonder Woman and hold for 2 minutes.
This was our favourite in the happiness Club this week. We all agreed that laughing every day was one of the best mood boosters. Laughter relaxes our muscles, improves our blood sugar and lowers our blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic. Because laughing is a social thing (you’re 30 percent more likely to laugh with others than alone), it also decreases isolation. So, watch your favourite comedy show, go see a live comedian or spend 5 minutes watching funny cat videos and laugh. A lot.
6. Adopt An Open Posture
When we are feeling anxious, not so confident, stressed or uncomfortable, we tend to adopt a closed and protective body language – crossing our arms and legs, shoulders hunched, lowering our head, less eye contact or maybe putting our hands in front of our face or mouth. Instead, adopt a more confident posture and feel your confidence and mood change. Instead of closing ourselves off and becoming smaller (also known as body blocking, the universal sign of discomfort) open yourself up and take up more space. Uncross your legs, open up your arms, shoulders back, head up and you will convey more confidence and feel your mood lighten. Science is now showing us that small changes in our body language can have a big impact on how we feel and how positively we receive information. Try to regularly tune in and scan your body and notice what slight adjustments you can make to impact your mood and to feel happier.
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