How Your Body Language Can Change Your Life

Fake It Til You BECOME It. This is the phrase Amy Cuddy suggests we use instead of  the fake-it-til-you-make-it approach we often hear.

Cuddy is a social psychologist whose research is proving that tweaking our body language for a mere two minutes can change how we feel, how we present ourselves, and thus change our outcomes.

Taken a step further, outcomes can impact our lives, as the outcomes of many situations can determine if we end up where we want to be or not in life.

We are all comfortable with the idea that our minds can change our bodies (i.e., mind tells body, “You’re going to the gym.”)

But the concept that our bodies can change our minds is not so widely known or accepted.

She’s studied what she calls “Universal Expressions of Power,” such as people finishing a race with a jump and their arms stretched wildly overhead.

One study compared people who had been born blind and people born with sight. Both expressed Universal Expressions of Power when they felt powerful.

It’s inherent.

Our body language when powerful is not only affecting the people we interact with. It’s also affecting our own minds.

Her research has found that powerful leaders exhibit higher levels of testosterone (a dominance hormone) and lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). It’s not just about feeling powerful or invincible. It’s also about controlling and handling stress.

How we hold our bodies affects this.

Having test subjects hold high-power poses (sitting up straight or standing with arms on their hips) or low-power poses (sitting hunched over or arms crossed) for two minutes revealed a distinct difference in, not only how the subjects were received, but how they performed and felt.

Cuddy suggests the more we reconfigure our mind by shifting our body posture, the more it will become second nature. Her personal experience is of being encouraged to fake it til she made it at a crucial time in her career. This approach took her from attending Princeton to teaching at Harvard. One day she realized she wasn’t faking it anymore. She had become the powerful person she was portraying all those years. This is why she’s convinced that people should fake it til they become it.

This sounds a lot like what happens at a yoga class. We walk in feeling tired or down or unfocused. For the next hour we move our bodies through a number of power poses such as Warrior 1, Warrior 2, and a variety of backbends that open and strengthen our bodies.

I recently read a post by Christina Sell where she stated that “fear has a posture.” “Courage has a posture too.”  This is fascinating food for thought. All of our emotions seem to have postures that correlate to them.

Practicing counter postures and “power poses” for two minutes at a time can go a long way to remapping our brains, which will impact how we interact or present ourselves, which will directly affect the outcomes of situations, which over time will significantly impact our lives.

What are your favorite power poses? How can we share this science with people who really need it, who have no power, no status, and no resources or technology? Share your comments below!

photo by: Jiaren Lau