I am sure you have noticed the difference in posture between a happy person and a sad person, a confident and a shy person, an angry or a calm person. We all know there are different body stances we take on naturally when we are in certain emotional states.
When you’re happy and feeling relaxed you stand more upright with open body language but when you are sad and fed up, you are more likely to have rounded slumped posture, looking downwards and this happens outside of your conscious awareness.
A friend of mine shows his stress so easily – his neck seems to completely disappear with his shoulders tensed up, practically around his ears resembling a tortoise!
The interesting thing is, he doesn’t even realise he’s lost his neck until I tease him about it and point it out. As soon as it is brought into his conscious awareness, he immediately relaxes and straight away feels much better.
However what many people do not realise is, that it works the other way round too. If you are feeling in a negative state, should you change your posture to what it would be if you were feeling on top of your game, your body will respond by producing the chemicals in your system to match your posture, which make you feel better mentally.
When you are happy you smile but when you smile you can feel happy too.
So if I have an anxious or depressed person in my therapy room, in a subtle way I might ask them to move their position in the chair and look upwards rather than downwards and it can make a big difference in mindset and how positive they are in embracing the session and absorbing the positive changes.
There is a famous Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy about power poses which may be worth a watch if you are interested in learning more about this subject.
Extensive research has been done on the effects of posture on emotional states and it makes you wonder about modern life, where anxiety and depression are on the rise – whether spending so much time slouched over desks and looking down at our phones might have a part to play in this increase.
So my message here is if you want to change how you are feeling, change your physiology – fake it until you feel it.
If you need to feel more confident, adopt a confident pose and act ‘as if’ you are already confident.
If you are feeling a bit low, uncurl that posture, stand tall and look more upwards rather than downwards and smile!
Adopt the pose and the feelings will follow.