Wouldn't it be great to have control over your mood and enjoy life more? Those times when you’re feeling low, or stressed and wish that you could just push a button and everything would feel better again?!
We know that to be healthy (and therefore happy) we should eat well, exercise and meditate, amongst other things, but sometimes, when we're not feeling good we just can't be bothered. Sound familiar? Yup we feel like this sometimes too, as do the many clients we speak to every day, which, is why we wanted to share the secret of how to change your mood through your body.
What if I told you that there is an easy way to lift your mood quickly, that doesn't involve eating greens or going for a 10 mile run (although these things are important too)? Well, to feel on-top-of-the-world every day is the holy grail, and we're not saying that achieving that is easy, but it is possible, and actually quite simple.
Your body changes your mind and your mind changes your body
Your body changes your mind, and by that we mean that your posture and movement patterns (your motoric system) have an effect on your thoughts, feelings and physiology - collectively your mood. But this isn’t the whole story, on the flip side, your mood changes your body, your subsequent behaviour and the end outcome. This process is known as embodied emotion.
Lets say that your alarm has woken you up in the morning, you have an important meeting at work and you feel tired and rushed. You have a lot to do between work, sorting out the kids, appointments, house chores, walking the dog and finding time to eat etc, it’s going to be a busy day. You hurry to get ready and notice that your stiff, you promise yourself that you're going to squeeze in some exercise today. You make it to your meeting with minutes to spare and spend the next few hours on back to back video calls and at your computer. When you get out of your chair you feel really stiff and a bit sore, but your mind is taken over by thoughts of your meeting, which you didn't feel went well. By the time you've gotten through your list of tasks you really don't feel like doing any exercise so you skip it. The day ends and the process happens all over again the next day. It’s fair to say that this chronic busy-ness and pressure drags your mood down.
So, what’s happening here? Well obviously there's just too much to do with very little time, and you could argue that circumstances have led to your mood, but maybe your mood is just as easily affecting your circumstances?
When you’re slouched down for prolonged periods, (like for example, when using a laptop, computer or phone) your body position and movement pattern triggers a change in your physiology. You produce less testosterone (dominance hormone necessary for self-confidence) and more cortisol (stress hormone that triggers your 'fight or flight' survival mode).
Why is this important?
It's not always possible to change your circumstances but it is possible to change how you feel through your body position and movement. It really can be as simple as that!
Research has shown that your motoric system (ie, habitual movement patterns or body postures) can affect your emotional processes by changing the amounts of circulating hormones like testosterone and cortisol. When you have good posture, your body alignment is good and it's easier to move your joints, you actually feel lighter. The resulting change in your physiological state (hormones) then affect your thoughts and feelings (psychological state).
Having a good upright posture has been shown to boost your self-esteem, your sense of empowerment, and your mood. Not only that, it reduces fatigue, negative thoughts, pain and blood pressure.
Fake it until you become it.
So what do you need to do to change your body and therefore your mood? Superman and Wonder woman have the right idea. When you adopt a 'power pose' position just like when you've won something and throw your arms wide in the air, or when you stand or sit with your shoulders open and back, this actually triggers this change in your physiology.
You can boost your confidence and reduce your stress just by spending 2 minutes power posing - queue the green light to flex those arms and power pose in front of the mirror! Try it first thing in the morning or when you're in the bathroom, in between your work calls, when making a cup of tea etc, it doesn’t matter when or where you do it and it’s easy to do. It will quickly make a difference to how you feel.
If you don’t feel confident in a situation or you feel overwhelmed by stress, use power poses to ‘fake it til you make’ it - brilliant advice by Amy Cuddy in her popular TED Talk 'Your body language may shape who you are'. Obviously we don’t expect you to start power posing through meetings but you get the idea.
Power posing is a quick and easy technique to help your mood (and your body), and a great way to motivate yourself to work on improving your body posture and movement patterns.
One of the reasons why we like Pilates so much is that along with power posing, it’s effects on your posture and movement patterns not only improve your strength, stability and body alignment, but it also does wonders for your mind. Not only do you feel the difference after 10 sessions, see the difference after 20 and have a whole new body after 30 sessions, you will actually improve your mood after just one!