When many of us shifted to remote work, our body language shifted as well. Displayed on a small screen, our hand gestures seemed less significant. Many of us slouched to accommodate the camera or got distracted by our own image. In the early days of the lockdowns, at least, our body language was like our new work wardrobe –– designed for comfort not confidence.
Yet whether you’re on a Zoom meeting, in an office or all by yourself, your body language affects your mind. That’s because the parts of your brain that control everything from emotions to breathing are all interconnected. That’s why you can “trick” your brain into being happy; it’s why slouching can make you feel shy. How you sit or stand matters. Here’s how body language affects your mind.
Smile When You Feel Like Crying
Turns out Botox does more than erase frown lines. It can erase the bad feelings that contribute to those grooves as well. In one study, subjects who were injected with Botox found their moods elevated partly because it was harder to frown. Although medication hadn’t alleviated their symptoms of depression, the study suggested that injections with Botox could “shortly accomplish a strong and sustained alleviation of depression in patients.. It supports the concept that the facial musculature not only expresses, but also regulates mood states.”
If you’re wondering how body language affects your mind, You can test it out by forcing yourself to smile on a down day. Although “faking it, ’til you make it” can definitely give you real joy from a false smile, the advice changes a bit if you’re in a leadership position. Then excessive smiling can be perceived as weakness.
Walk With Purpose
What’s your stride like? Are you slouched over, your steps heavy-footed? When you walk like that you’re more susceptible to negative thoughts. Plus, standing up straight and keeping a relatively brisk pace is better for you. You’ll be seen as more confident as well. As an added bonus, walking this way can help with retention –– especially with information that is positive and beneficial.
Stand Up Straight
Often our posture gets progressively worse as the day progresses. If you’re currently slouched over, take a moment to stand up and stretch. Then try this posture improver from the Mayo Clinic: Start by standing so your bottom, your shoulder blades, and the back of your head touches the wall. Your heels should be around two to four inches from the wall. When you place your hand flat behind the small of your back, you should be able to barely slide it between your lower back and the wall. If there’s too much space, suck in your tummy toward your spine. If there’s too little, arch your back.
To check, you can walk away from the wall in the corrected posture and then return to see if it passes the hand test. It takes time to get used to standing properly, but doing so has numerous health benefits including reducing back and shoulder pain. Good posture is also a proven mood elevator. Whether your next job interview is online or in-person, your posture (along with your facial expressions) can play a big role in whether or not you get an offer.
Strike a Pose
The power pose has been a tad controversial, but I still believe it motivates me and gives me a shot of conference before public speaking. Its popularity followed a TED talk by Amy Cuddy where she demonstrated research on how when people take a stance that makes them seem wider or taller they actually gain confidence. When we are contracted –– bent over with our legs crossed –– that power disappears. If you’re unsure, give the power pose a try. Stand with your back straight, your hands on your hips, and your legs apart –– just like Wonder Woman! Keep your chin up and expand your chest. Hold this pose for at least one minute. You can practice a mantra if facing a mirror or do some breathing exercises. If you’re about to enter a meeting or just need a confidence boost, you might be startled by how well the power pose works.
The idea is to become self aware, not self conscious. Making small adjustments in our body language can pay real dividends both in how we feel and how we are perceived.
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