I remember how amazed I was when taking my first psychology class and learning about research demonstrating that we can change our moods simply by changing our facial expressions. In many of those studies, participants started to feel happier after simply tensing certain muscles associated with smiling. In some studies, people felt even happier if they saw their own faces making artificial smiles. In all these cases, participants were “blind” to the study—they had no idea what was being studied.
In a recent TEDTalk, Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy Ph.D. describes her research into the relationship between posture and self-confidence. Her research suggests that our non-verbal body language affects how we feel when we are in a social interaction. Do I feel ready to take a little risk and act assertively when I am talking to my boss or instructor? Her research suggests that it partly depends on whether I was hunched up or stretched out large in a “power pose” prior to that interaction.
I am always looking for new ways for people with anxiety problems to get relief. Can people with social anxiety feel more confident and less anxious by changing their posture before talking to that cashier or making that speech? Professor Cuddy says yes. It will be fascinating to see how future research bears this out.