On Leadership

Did you know that your body language can make you happier? I didn’t.

Happy Body LanguageLook at these characters from Star Wars. They all look so relaxed and happy, despite the fact they are taking on the Death Star. What if we could feel as relaxed and happy as they do in our stress filled lives. A new Harvard study says that we can, and it has to do with our body language. We have known for a long time that body language influences how we perceive one another. In fact 97% of communication consists of body language. But what we didn’t know was that our body language actually changes how we feel inside as well? An incredible study released by Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, shows just how much our body language can make us feel better or worse.

What Dr. Cuddy surprisingly discovered is that a change in our posture actually changes the levels of coritisol (the stress hormone) and testosterone (the dominance hormone) by a lot. After studying various subjects she found that it only takes 2 minutes of holding either a high power pose or a low power pose to change those levels dramatically. In fact maintaining a high power position for 2 minutes increased testosterone levels by 20 percent. People in low power positions experienced the opposite with testosterone decreasing by 10 percent. Not only that, but, high power people experienced about a 25% decrease in cortisol, reducing their level of stress, whereas low power people experience about a 15 percent increase making them more stressed.

Apparently when people meet in a room we naturally assume either a low power position or a high power one. So what is a high power position versus a low power position? When a person wins a race and they lift their arms and chin in the air, that’s a high power position. Whereas a low power position is when a person crosses their arm or sits folded. Basically a low power position is when a person is making themselves smaller and a high power position is when a person makes themselves bigger.

That means that people who hold high power poses actually are happier, more confident and have less stress! So I guess the lesson here is that if we are conscious of how we posture ourselves we may be surprised by the results. So before you walk into that stressful meeting take 2 minutes to stretch your arms and hold a victory pose in the washroom. When talking to people place your hands on your sides, instead of folded in front of you. You are awesome, when your body language reflects that it will make you feel awesome too.

If you have 20 minutes here’s a video of Amy Cuddy speaking about this at TEDtalks.

By Jonathan Whiting

I enjoy sharing what I am learning and hopefully it's of interest and help to you. I live in Canada with my wife. Follow me on Twitter.

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