Around 3 years ago, I came across this Ted talk.
To briefly summarise the talk – Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, explains that the mind / body link is so strong that not only does the mind influence the body, but the body also influences the mind.
While at drama school, I explored holding body positions to influence a feeling or emotion while developing a character. We were asked to imagine how someone with shame or joy may hold themselves, and if that helped us to access the emotions of the character. When watching this Ted talk, I was excited to find someone explore how the body can directly influence our minds regards to real life situations and how it can help with communication and confidence.
In the talk, Amy Cuddy explains that when a primate wants to show dominance, they expand, spread wide and occupy the space of other animals. What do humans do? We instintelvly do the same. Researcher’s Jessica Tracy and David Matsumoto did an experiment with blind athletes (those who were blind from birth), who when completed a race, instinctely threw their arms above their head in a victory pose.
Amy Cuddy wanted to take this research one step further and answer the question – can our own body language affect how we think of ourselves?
She did some tests using everyday ‘social threat’ situations, such as going for an interview or public speaking and had people adopt a high-power pose or a low-power power pose. She discovered by adopting an innate bodily position associated with success or victory, the brain responds accordingly. The participants of the study were then given the opportunity to gamble. The people in the high status poses were found to be more risk-tolerant and less responsive to stress. They found that 86% who posed in the high-power position would gamble, versus 60% for low — a significant difference. There were also physiological changes – levels of testosterone went up 20% (the hormone associated with risk tolerance) while levels of cortisol (stress hormone which brings on nerves and feelings of panic) reduced by 25%.
I wanted to test out this theory for myself with regards to facing my own high-stress situations such as attending an audition or making a speech. I held a power pose for 2 minutes before any of these stress inducing situations and the results have been ground breaking. Holding the pose, which for me has the greatest effect when I hold my arms above my head, really provides a feeling of power, strength and control. I have found I am thrust into positive thought – feeling strong and powerful, with sense of ‘I’ve got this’. Standing still in the pose forces down my heart rate and in turn, reduces my feelings of fear.
I cannot recommend this technique highly enough. Take yourself off to a quiet corner or into a toilet, hold the pose for 2 minutes and see how you feel afterwards.
I think you’ll never be without your Wonder Woman or Superman again.