Health

Scientists Discover What Your Posture Means for Your Future

It’s likely you’ve heard the old adage to “fake it ‘til you make it” once or twice. As a 20-something there are life opportunities to be anxious about and dreams about the future are plentiful: will that job promotion ever come? Am I good enough to study with the best of the best? Should I take the leap and get married?

Dr. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard-based social psychologist and author of the new book “Presence,” suggests in her uber-popular TED talk that “faking" it with your physical stance until you actually become who you really are — rather than just going through the motions — is a powerful way to reduce anxiety. In time, you will emerge as the best version of yourself in the workplace and at home.

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“If you act powerfully, you will begin to think powerfully,” wrote New York Times columnist David Brooks of Cuddy’s findings. Power is linked directly to what Cuddy calls presence: being connected with your own thoughts and feelings, which helps you to better connect with the thoughts and feelings of others in a variety of contexts.

Cuddy’s research (along with colleague Dana Carney of University of California, Berkeley) focuses on how nonverbal expressions are linked to hormone levels, feelings and performance. Specifically, Cuddy’s experiments and numerous other studies have found that “power posing” for as little as two minutes can make a tremendous difference physiologically, emotionally and mentally.

Think about the way your favorite superhero stands — say, Wonder Woman or Superman — and then try it out for yourself in private before your next big interview or presentation for an instant confidence boost.

Here are five times changing your posture — and becoming more present — will be profoundly useful in the new year:

1. When the dating game has you down.

Trusting in yourself is important when you’re embarking on a potential new romantic relationship, and the body language you use lets you and your potential new partner know who you are without saying a word.

“Appropriate self-disclosure, the use of humor, and natural smiles all signal warmth,” writes Cuddy in a Harvard Magazine article.

2. When your job hunt has taken a while forever.

Sometimes searching for a job can prove just as difficult as finding ‘the one,’ especially these days. “If you’ve been close to getting the job, it’s more likely to hit your self-esteem,” says Cuddy.

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You should start by fearlessly following up and asking for feedback, she says, which is all part of the present, confident mindset. The second and critical part of the equation is being open to receiving the feedback, which automatically makes you more desirable as a job candidate, and could be what helps you land the gig the next time around.

3. When the promotion hasn’t come... yet.

If you’re actively working on becoming a better leader, it can be tough when the title doesn’t follow. “As you start to experience external failures, you do start to feel powerless, and you tend to collapse,” says Cuddy.

But it’s important to keep in mind your expansive, superhero power pose. “Your body is constantly talking to your brain,” says Cuddy. “You can control that conversation.”

4. When you’re awaiting hearing back on a fellowship or grad school app.

Cuddy suggests a simple self-affirmation exercise to help reinforce your sense of your “authentic self” to help mitigate the anxiety associated with waiting.

Write down the top things that are most important to your core identity and why they matter. For some people, it would be their friends, and for others it’s their art and creativity. In doing so, “you are anchored in yourself instead of something external,” she says.

5. When you’re trying to change the world.

One of Cuddy’s most important lessons in researching social psychology and the effects of posture on power relations is that this science must be shared.

Knowing yourself better by being authentic and present means that you are able to help the powerless and voiceless do the same — and it doesn’t require technology; just a helping hand, a warm smile, a compassionate ear, and a pose that says ‘follow me.’

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