We can tell a lot about another person’s mood without them saying a word. Facial expressions, body position and the way they move can let us know how they are feeling. We pay attention to the smile, frown or furrowed brow to let us know their reactions in a conversation.
We also read other’s moods by the way they walk or the way they sit. Sitting slumped over with legs and arms crossed conveys a more subdued or depressed mood. Sitting upright, with arms extended usually denotes a more positive or empowered mood.
We generally think that our bodies respond to our minds. If we feel a certain way, the body reacts. When we’re happy, we smile. When we’re sad, we frown. When we’re down, we slump and walk more slowly.
Certainly, it is true that the body reacts to the mind, but recent research has clearly shown that the opposite also occurs. The mind reacts to the body. Standing or sitting in certain positions, or holding a particular facial expression, actually changes the mood.
The researchers found several ingenious ways to get subjects to hold positions normally associated with depressed, happy, angry, powerless or empowered moods. The subjects were given a false explanation for these poses, so they didn’t realize they were mimicking a mood. The researchers then gave the subjects questionnaires to measure mood, and blood tests to measure hormones.
When subjects held depressed or powerless poses or facial expressions, they later reported negative, depressed moods. More importantly, their blood work showed hormonal changes associated with more negative or powerless moods. When they held empowered or positive poses or facial expressions, they later reported happy or confident emotions, and their blood work reflected the same.
Some studies had subjects engage in a stressful event (like a job interview) after holding empowered or powerless poses. They had independent raters observe the subjects’ performance in those situations. Results indicated that the subjects who held the empowered poses actually performed significantly better in the stressful activity.
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, Amy Cuddy, Ph.D. gave a very popular presentation on www.Ted.com. You can also read her recent book on the subject, “Presence.”
So, you might want to try this easy mood altering technique. Change your posture or your facial expression, whether you feel like it or not. Make yourself smile. Stand up straight with your hands on your hips, and your head tilted slightly upward. Hold that stance for about two minutes. Remember the Wonder Woman pose? By the way, you don’t have to do this in front of anyone.
As silly as this may sound, research shows it makes a difference in mood, body chemistry and performance. Fake it til you make it. You might just change your mind!