Using our bodies to change how we feel
People often think of their minds and bodies as being separate entities, but research shows us that mind and body are one, and that not only do our thoughts and feelings cause changes in our bodies, but that changes in our bodies cause our thoughts and feelings to be different.
Some interesting experiments have clearly demonstrated this. One study asked participants to add up a list of numbers. While doing so, one group had to ‘contract their corrugator muscle’ (furrow their brows), while the others were asked to ‘extend their zygomaticus muscle’ (adopt a slight grin). Adopting these different facial expressions while doing the task had a large impact on how they found the task, with the participants who were frowning feeling that the task had required far more effort than the grinning group.
Another study had participants concentrate on products moving across a large computer screen and rate whether the items appealed to them. Products either moved across the screen horizontally or down the screen vertically, forcing participants to move their head in a shaking or nodding motion. Results showed that the group for whom the products moved vertically liked the products far more than the group with the products moving horizontally.
Knowing that adjusting our bodies will change how we feel is something we can use to our advantage. For example, if we want to feel happier, we can behave in a happy way – walking with a spring in our steps, standing tall, looking up, smiling and laughing more. Equally if we’re nervous about something and want to feel more confident, we need to keep our hands apart instead of clasped together in front of us, keep our shoulders back, angle our heads up and put a smile on our faces.