We've probably all been subjected to the advice of smiling more, especially on the days where anything more than a resting bitch face seems like hard work (thanks Janice, from HR)
But have you ever given a thought to the possible science behind these rather annoying gems of wisdom?
Health practitioners everywhere, including myself are constantly emphasising the role of the mind in determining the health of the body; but what if I was to flip this on its head and propose that the way that we move and our chosen posture can also affect our mental health (an interesting thought, huh?)
Amy Cuddy, a psychologist is a world leader in the concept of "Power Posing" (what a catchy title!?) That is, the concept of purposefully manipulating the body's physiology or posture to positively impact on our mental state... pretty damn useful for those dreaded job interviews and first date nerves, right?
By investigating the physiological effects of different postures, research has unearthed a strong link between adopting open, confident postures (known as "Power Postures") and a positively enhanced mental state (feelings of confidence, self efficacy etc). This effect has been attributed to the relative increase seen in the hormone testosterone, after adopting a "Power Pose" for a period of 2 minutes, relative to a non-power posture (making oneself smaller). Picture Beyoncé vs the shy kid at the back of the class and you'll understand what I'm getting at.
Interestingly enough, this increase in testosterone was found to be accompanied by a reduction in cortisol, the stress hormone; an effect which has been echoed in the animal kingdom in alpha primates. So not only does "Power Posing" make one feel more powerful, but it also appears to reduce stress levels (and we all need some of that).
So how does all this science apply in the real world? Well, as we can see, research has presented us with the exciting prospect of using the body to help create a more positive state of mind. This in a world where the prevalence of anxiety and depression are on the up is BIG news! If we were to also to factor in the simplicity, usability and speed of "Power Posing" as a concept, we potentially have something which people can use to great effect within just 2 minutes!
Now before we get ahead of ourselves, we must look at the counter arguments, which include how long the effects of "Power Posing" lasts for? Like all hormonal changes, there is likely to be limit on how long the rise in testosterone can be sustained for. But let's face it, it's a small price to pay for 2 minutes worth of effort to feel like Superman/ Wonder Woman, right?
Overall, "Power Posing" gives us another way of looking at how to create a positive state of mind for ourselves with minimal investment and a super-sciencey evidence base. I for one am hugely excited to see where this area of research takes us in the future!
Why not give "Power Posing" a go and make it part of your daily routine? Be aware of how you're holding yourself when you feel tense or stressed and nip off to the loo to go connect with your inner super-hero(ine) for 2 minutes!
For more information and a thoroughly fascinating TED talk, you can watch Amy Cuddy in action here.
Beck Spencer is a Chartered Physiotherapist, NLP trainee and dedicated champion of a mind-body approach to healthcare. She believes in the intrinsic link between the body and mind and aspires to be a key voice in the healthcare industry for mind-body integrated practices.
When she’s not writing, she loves reading and listening to all things Tony Robbins and salsa dancing!
You can connect with her health blog here.