The way you hold yourself can be an outward expression of how you feel. When you have your shoulders back, and head held high, you exude confidence to others. When you don’t feel quite so confident, you may hunch your shoulders, making yourself look smaller. These subtle physical expressions can show others how you feel, but emerging research shows that your body language can even have an effect on your own psyche.
In the study, participants were asked to memorize a set of words as they were walking on a treadmill. The words were both positive and negative in nature. The participants had to perform the experiment once walking as they normally would, and then again walking with more pep in their step, in more of a cheerful bounce. The results showed that after walking along happily, even though it was faked, participants remembered more of the positive words they saw, in comparison to when they walked in their normal stance.
These types of studies are numerous. The University of Aukland did a study that showed sitting up straight helped participants feel more self-esteem and elevated moods whereas the “slumpers” in the study used more negative words. The viral TED talk with psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses how reverting to a “power pose” could help raise testosterone and lower cortisol, resulting in a higher level of confidence. Cuddy suggested standing with legs wide, and hands on hips like a superhero for two minutes to prompt the physiological effects.
Whenever you’re feeling stressed, remember to drop your shoulders back to release tension you may be carrying there. Breathe steadily through your nose and close your eyes to help avoid becoming overwhelmed. Though serious conditions like depression cannot be cured with body language, taking small moments to be conscious of your posture may help you cope with emotions in the moment.