Using a few simple tweaks in body language, Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy has shown that you can change your body chemistry within 2 minutes to make you more confident and powerful and less stressed. We all know that the mind influences our body, but research now shows that the connection works both ways. We now have evidence that you can change your brain chemistry immediately by making simple changes in your posture, gestures and how you move. Imagine being able to simply stand or sit in a certain way for 2 minutes and immediately put yourself into a more confident and powerful state while also feeling more relaxed and in control. Cuddy offers us this as a no-tech, free life hack.
Cuddy and her colleagues conducted truly revolutionary research which shows that “faking” body postures associated with dominance and power (“power posing”) – even for as little as two minutes — increases people’s testosterone (the confidence and dominance hormone), decreases their cortisol (the stress hormone), increases their appetite for risk, and causes them to perform better in job interviews. Cuddy also mentions research which has shown that successful leaders tend to have high levels of testosterone and low levels of cortisol. Within 2 minutes of standing or sitting in a “high- power pose” (see pictures) you will put yourself into a state of confidence and power while feeling more relaxed and in control. Talk about useful! Imagine being able to take 2 minutes before an interview, negotiation, performance or date to change your brain chemistry in a way which can help you succeed! This is ground-breaking, especially because it is free, fast and simple.
In the experiment, Cuddy and her colleagues had people come in and a saliva sample was taken in order to check their hormone levels. Afterwards, they were told to stand in either high-power or low-power poses for 2 minutes. Then they were given an opportunity to gamble followed by another saliva sample. They found that those who were in the high-power pose were much more likely to take a risk, to gamble. Those in high-power poses experienced about a 20% increase in testosterone while there was a 10% decrease in those standing in low-power poses. With cortisol, the stress hormone, they found a 25% decrease in those who were in the high-power positions and a 15% increase for those in the low-power positions. 2 minutes and you get these very powerful changes in body chemistry!
Dana Carney, from UC Berkeley, who conducted the experiment with Cuddy said, “If I do a power pose, that sends signals up to the brain, and it says ‘I’m feeling powerful’. It starts as a neural impulse and then ends up acting a little bit like a drug.”
Now, this is not the only research out there showing that by changing your body you can change your thoughts and your mood. One of the most famous and often cited study was the pencil experiment which showed that holding a pencil between your lips in a way that uses the muscles of a genuine smile will elicit happiness – demonstrating that facial muscles can directly impact mood and emotion. The brain associates certain facial muscles with certain feelings and moods.
Research has shown that hugging yourself can reduce physical pain. Walking in a sad, slumped way has been shown to decrease energy, while skipping increases it. In another study, when sitting up straight, participants relayed that they found it easier to conjure up positive thoughts and memories.
If You Act It, You Become It
So, what’s the take away from all of this? Besides using this terrific 2 minute life hack, know this: if you act powerful, you will think and feel powerful, and others take will notice. The most beautiful part of all of this is that if you keep “faking it” you will eventually “become it” by actually making lasting changes in your brain and its neural pathways. If you want to, for example, be confident, just act the part and eventually you will actually be confident. Your body is your most powerful tool. Harness its power: move with confidence, smile, stand tall – and you can change your mood and your thoughts. So the next time you want to feel good, simply stand like wonder woman: tall and proud. Change your body, change your mood and your thoughts.
Watch Amy Cuddy’s excellent TED talk on this subject.