Breakthrough research from Harvard has revealed a stress-relieving strategy so powerful, it causes levels of the stress hormone cortisol to plummet by 25 percent instantly. Even better: It doesn’t require medication, exercise or really any effort on your part — you simply have to adjust your body language.
“Our bodies change our minds, our minds change our behavior and our behavior changes our outcomes,” explains Amy Cuddy, PhD, a social psychologist at Harvard and author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (Buy on Amazon, $18.80). “The right posture can rewire your brain to better cope with any stressful situation.” Read on to discover the poses that will make you feel more confident quickly!
Worried? Swing your arms!
When we’re anxious, our bodies naturally tense up and we tend to adopt defensive or “closed” postures (like crossing our arms across our chest or slouching) as an instinctive way to protect our vital organs. But loosely swinging our arms — like a carefree, happy child would — relaxes stiff muscles and creates an “open” posture that tricks the brain into believing there’s nothing to fear. And according to Kazuko Tatsumura Hillyer, PhD, co-author of Deep Breath Changes Your Body and Mind/Spirit (Buy on Amazon, $18), swinging your arms will also cause the brain to release calming alpha waves, leaving you worry-free in five to 10 seconds.
Self-conscious? Do the ‘Wonder Woman’
About to make a big presentation? Standing with your hands on your hips can cut insecurity in half in less than two minutes, say Harvard researchers. That’s because this “expansive” pose, which allows the body to take up more space, triggers the brain to release 20 percent more testosterone. The result of this hormone boost, according to Cuddy: “You immediately feel more assertive, confident, and comfortable.”
Feeling blue? Flash a Smile
We’ve all heard that a smile can help lift our spirits, but research is showing that a particular type of grin may make this expression even more effective than previously thought. Psychologist Paul Ekman, PhD, has found that the Duchenne smile — one that crinkles the skin around the eyes — lights up the brain’s prefrontal lobe, leading to an outpouring of happy emotions and lowering heart rate. And research at the University of Kansas in Lawrence confirms that faking this type of grin delivers the same dramatic joy boost as a genuine smile.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Make Money From Home.
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