Sometimes you can communicate without saying a single word. How? Your body language is doing the talking. Everything from your posture, to your gestures and facial expressions, can pass on subliminal messages that hint to your mood and feelings as effectively as the spoken word can. “Imagine someone who has just won the lottery – what would you picture them doing?” asks psychotherapeutic counsellor Chanelle Sowden (chanellesowden.co.uk). “Perhaps they’re jumping up and down with excitement, laughing loudly or making big, bold movements to express their delight? Now, imagine a person who has just been told their loved one has passed away – you wouldn’t see the same reaction. They’re more likely to go inward, cover their face and look downward to the ground. These are extreme examples of how the emotions you feel in each moment impact your physical body and movement. The mind and body are connected with studies showing that emotions impact your movement and posture.” In fact, it’s said that approximately 80-90 percent of communication in a message lies in the non-verbal part of it. By taking advantage of these outward expressions, this can be an easy and simple way to boost your mood and wellness. So, the next time you need a quick pick-me-up, look to the way you’re presenting your body language.
Feel more confident
“Studies have proven that grounding your feet to the floor, tuning into your body, opening your chest, and holding your head up and your arms and hands out wide instantly helps with confidence,” explains Chanelle. “Whereas slumping, mumbling and resisting movement will make you feel small and therefore weaker, and less prepared to push yourself or act with confidence. This negative posture physically affects your mood because it reduces the amount of oxygen you’re taking in which is vital for good health, cell renewal and feeling awake. It may also have a psychological impact on you, as it closes you off to the world, making you seem less approachable.” Instead, try leaning back in your chair, with your arms behind your head, or over the top of the chair.
Have more energy
When you’re flagging in the morning and are tempted to reach for coffee, try making some physical tweaks to your body language can help. Start by adjusting the way you walk. “Find a rhythm to walk to and stick to it – this calms your body and mind, and creates happy hormones in your system that are great for energy levels,” explains human behaviour expert Jo Emerson (jo-emerson.com). “Walk with purpose and breathe deeply while doing so. Smiling will also greatly change your body language. When you smile (especially with your eyes), you send a strong signal to yourself and others that you are positive and that life is positive, and your body adjusts accordingly. Lastly, force yourself to look up – count chimney pots or birds if you’re outside, or count ceiling tiles if you’re in an office – this is because looking up has been scientifically proven to lift a person’s mood and therefore make them feel more capable in that moment.”
Feel less stressed
“As soon as you feel yourself going into a stressful mental space, put your physical stance into a strong position by taking a deep breath, dropping your shoulders back, placing your feet firmly on the ground and relaxing your arms at your side,” advises Susan Hepburn, accredited hypnotherapist and psychotherapist (susanhepburnclinics.com). “Try what’s known as a power pose – this involves standing up straight, putting your hands on your hips, and pushing your chest out like a superhero does, then smile. It improves your mood, your intensity, and your physical energy. It can also make you feel less stressed by immediately changing your body chemistry, bringing up testosterone and lowering the stress hormone, cortisol.”
Make a good first impression
It’s said that someone new will have made a judgement about you within the first seven seconds of meeting you. Make sure it’s a good one by following these tips: “Try to adopt a comfortable and open stance by keeping your arms down at your sides, as well as placing your feet firmly on the ground, shoulder-width apart when standing,” suggests Susan. “Maintain eye contact, as avoiding it suggests you’re untrustworthy or disinterested. Just be careful not to stare! Angle towards the person you are talking to and don’t formulate a block. Any body language that makes you look like you are ready to escape means the other person will feel like you are just not interested. Another common technique is to mirror the other person but this should be used sparingly. Nod during conversation as this reinforces to the other person that you want to be involved in what’s being discussed.”
“You may have heard of some phrases like ‘pick yourself up’, or ‘chin up’ when you are feeling down,” says osteopath and physio Tim Allardyce (surreyphysio.co.uk). “Physically picking yourself up can often result in a better mood. For example, we tend to notice that people suffering with low mood and depression have worse posture than you would normally expect, dropping their heads forward, looking at the ground a lot more frequently, and rounding their shoulders.” Remedy this next time you feel a little blue by lifting your entire body up a notch. “Hold yourself up with a good posture, raise up your neck, relax your shoulders and stand up straight,” adds Andy.