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July 31, 2013

For my entire life my mother has told me to stop slouching. I mean, to be honest, I could probably give Quasimodo a run for his money… so she has a point. Additionally, there’s legitimate scientific evidence to support my mother’s demands for better posture. We’re all at least somewhat capable of reading body language, right? For example, if a person is crossing their arms, closed-off, slouchy… we can usually tell that they aren’t terribly comfortable or confident. And if a woman says, “I’m fine” with her hands on her hips – men you might not know this one – but she’s actually the opposite of fine.

Silver is fine.

HOWEVER – this principle also works in reverse. Your body position can actually have a huge influence your emotions and confidence. Upright, open postures with squared and relaxed shoulders will make you feel like king of the world, while (unsurprisingly) slumping down to nearly horizontal in your desk chair has the opposite effect.

One researcher named Amy J. C. Cuddy has asked some very interesting questions concerning the cause of this phenomenon. She wanted to know why, exactly, would a change in posture result in a change in mood? Is there a chemical basis for this effect? Her findings lean very strongly toward “yes.” She discovered that spending just two measly minutes in a “high power” position will actually increase the circulating levels of testosterone and decrease cortisol. This is relevant because testosterone is responsible for dominance and aggression in mammals – so it’s easy to see the link between this hormone and self-confidence. Cortisol, on the other hand, is a stress hormone that over time can really damage our health and well-being (think of those people in jobs with chronic high-level stress and how ragged they look). So reducing cortisol is a good thing and will generally indicate that the animal is under a lower level of stress – something that will likely improve their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Amy’s work has essentially opened our eyes to a loophole in nature – we can learn to “fake it till we make it.” What I mean is we can trick our minds into being more confident just by changing how our body is arranged in space. Say we’re going to a job interview or other stressful situation, we can simply spend two minutes being all postury and flexy in the mirror to get our heads in the game. The changes in testosterone and cortisol occur even in this short period, and the positive influence on our self-perception will allow us to be more calm and relaxed during the stressful event ahead of us. Talk about a lifehack, right?? Spend enough of your time tricking yourself into being confident, and one day you wake up and find it’s no longer an act.

Chewy KNOWS he’s fabulous.

So give it a shot – I bet you a million dollars you’re currently slouching down in a desk chair, on a couch, in bed – wherever. Try sitting up straight, squaring your shoulders and tilting your chin up. Act like you own the world for a couple of minutes, strut your fierce little bum around the house for a bit. Then do a little self-assessment about how you’re feeling. I guarantee you’ll feel better than when you were staring glassy eyed at the computer screen. And THAT’S science.


From → Biology

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