Body Language and Stress Reduction

We all know that body language can have an immediate effect on the impression we give of ourselves to McKayla Maroney’s others – much media time is given to the unspoken language between politicians, or to  facial expressions at the 2012 Olympics. But can our own body language have an impact on how we think and feel ourselves?

Research conducted by Amy Cuddy and colleagues definitely indicates this to be so. Teaching an MBA class Amy had noticed the difference in body language amongst students and the correlation between those with big, confident movements versus those with small, meek movements in terms of passing the class participation component of the course. Those who demonstrated meeker body language tended to participate less and not do as well with that particular grade. Was their own body language perpetuating how they saw themselves and the level to which they would participate? Therefore, if they changed their body language, could they change the image they held of themselves? The premise of their study (presented here by Amy in a TED talk) was, “can you fake it til you make it?”.

Our minds can change our bodies, but can our bodies also change our minds?

This is a key takeaway for the reduction of stress – people who demonstrate power (including powerful body language) tend to have lower counts of the stress hormone cortisol. In lab tests measuring the effect of different power (or meek, lack of power) poses, the difference showed up in subjects bodies after only 2 minutes of holding the pose. This means that our non-verbal actions can have a chemical effect on our bodies that governs how we think and feel about ourselves.

How can you apply this practically to your everyday situation? As Amy reveals in the video above, small tweaks can lead to big changes. For example, say you are waiting to be interviewed for a job, or waiting your turn to give a speech, or any activity which you may be nervous about or find intimidating. If you spend just a couple of minutes beforehand practicing ‘power poses’ the outcomes for your stress levels and your ability to feel confident and perform can be huge.

A final message from Amy? It’s not really about ‘fake it til you make it’ anymore, it’s about faking it until you become it…

What did you take away from this TED talk? Would a change in body language be helpful for you? Let us know below…