We all get down at times. Sometimes, it’s for good reason. I don’t think the idea of trying to push that away with positive thinking or special exercises is healthy – if you don’t address the underlying problems.
It’s virtually impossible to feel deeply depressed when you take on the body posture and facial expressions of someone who just scored their dream job or who just won the lottery. Try it. Really act it out.
Imagine you just inherited five million dollars. How would you stand? Would you be slumped over or erect? Would you jump up and down? Pump your fist? Scream? Hold both arms up? How big would your smile be? Would your muscles be tight or slack? Really get into it and let your body and face do what they would do if you had truly just come into that much cash.
Are ya feelin’ a little giddy?
Hold that posture and that feeling. Now, feel as sad as you possibly can. Right now. Get sad! If you were able to change your positive feelings to negative ones that quickly, how do you look? Did your body posture change? Did you facial expressions change? I bet they did. It’s virtually impossible to feel sad and look ecstatic at the same time.
Try it the opposite way as well. Can you feel like you’re on top of the world while you’re slouched down in a chair with the most depressed body posture you can imagine and a facial expression that says your favorite dog just died? Not really. (Wait, you’d be really sad if any of your dogs died, right?)
That’s why, sometimes, it pays to “fake it until you make it.” Yes, you can sometimes shake yourself out of a small funk by walking, talking, and smiling as if you’re happy and ready to take on the day.
Remember, this doesn’t mean that we are constantly pretending we’re happy no matter what. That would be insane and cause you other problems. We need to deal with issues that are dragging us down and fix real problems we have. But the more you emulate what a positive, happy, optimistic person looks like, the more you actually will become one.
Amy Cuddy has given a great Ted Talk on her research on this. She found that our body postures can even change our hormones. When people in her research performed one of the “power poses” for as little as two minutes, their testosterone levels increased 20 percent and their stress cortisol levels decreased 25 percent. These positions made the participants feel more powerful and confident. What’s more, neutral observers who did not know which people had done the power poses rated the people who had done them as more powerful than the ones who had not practiced them. It seems your body doesn’t understand that you’re just faking it.
But wait, there’s more.
Erik Pepper’s behavioral science research shows that how we sit, stand, and move impacts our energy levels and how we feel. When we sit up straight, it’s easier to think positive thoughts. When we’ve been sitting for a while, getting up to stretch, skip, and “wiggle” boosts our energy levels and our ability to concentrate.
This type of research has been around since the late 1800s, so isn’t it time you took advantage of it?
(I’m now offering a 40 day online coaching course to kick start finding and pursuing your Passionate Purpose.)