May 5, 2013

Aging: How is your Wonder Woman stance making you feel?





What if your posture could affect how you feel emotionally? We know that when you put a pencil between your teeth forcing yourself to smile, you will actually feel happier. What if that principle also applied to how strong your stance was or even how erect you stood? Those were the question Amy Cuddy was asking herself. Could she prove that the way you stand or sit changes the way you behave and possibly even effect hormone levels in your body?  I thought the premise was very interesting because I could see how it might apply to older people.

Cuddy works at Harvard Decision Science Lab and the TED presentation you can watch above tells about an experiment she did centered around using a power pose (legs apart, hands on hip, etc) to increase peoples feelings of power with less stress. Half of the participants in the study practiced standing like Wonder Woman making their bodies big and open for two minutes before going into a stressful interview.  Those people that were asked to power pose interviewed for jobs better and were evaluated at a high level by a people that were blind to the experiment. The hormones changed in the bodies of the interviewed subjects resulting in a more confident feeling and a reduction in stress.Those people that practiced a submissive pose (head down, arms crossed, slumped, hand on neck) experienced just the opposite in the interview and in the hormone test.

As we grow older we find that we will slump because of pain or even our emotional state. In fact, it is such an insidious behavior that we don't even realize it is happening. Or at least that is what happened to me. I glanced at myself in the window of a department store recently and failed to recognize who I even was. When did that happen? Could that be me hunched over with my head hanging down looking submissive? I was simply appalled. Yuck!

Did I do that because I was feeling a little down in the dumps or was it because gravity was just too much for me? Or could it be that I was feeling down in the dumps because of the way I was standing?

It seemed only logical that I needed to stand up straight. So I worked on finding a new center of gravity and looked at myself more often. I began checking my posture. I am gradually learning the habit of standing up straight. It is hard but that is what I expected. My new posture is having an effect on my thought process and I actually thing sales people treat me differently.  Standing up straight could be like putting a pencil in my mouth. Amy Cuddy has me thinking too.

After watching the video, I understood the connection between my posture and an improved outlook. I suggest you watch the TED presentation and pass it on to anyone that might be interested. This is an idea worth sharing!

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David Brooks ran a opinion piece in the New York Time on this subject back in April of 2011. It was called Mind Over Matter.

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