Need a quick pick-me-up? Skip the coffee, and instead, stand straighter, smile and even try imitating a cheerful walk to lift your spirits.
Here are six easy ways to beat the blues with your body language:
1. Walk the walk
Scientists at Canada’s Institute for Advanced Research had two groups of study participants walk on a treadmill, one with their shoulders slumped and with a slow gait, and the other in a more cheerful fashion. As they walked, the test subjects were shown a list of positive and negative words.
The depressed walkers recalled more negative words, while the cheerful walkers remembered the upbeat words on the list, suggesting that their body language during the test had affected their moods and memory. The lesson here? Lift your head and stand tall, and you may just see your spirits look up as well.
You know the saying “Fake it until you make it”? Well, it’s actually true when it comes to smiling. Since the 1970s, research has shown that even a manipulated smile can boost your mood. A genuine smile—one that involves both the mouth and the eyes—does all kinds of great things for you, like releasing endorphins into your bloodstream and boosting your immune system.
What’s more, researchers at the University of Kansas found that people who smile have better heart recovery rates after stressful events. So, if you find yourself in a stressful situation, a smile could just be what the doctor ordered.
3. Power pose
Try a power pose to restore your confidence. Either raise your arms in the victory post or put your hands on your hips like Superman, and then hold your pose for a few moments. “Power posing” can help us reduce our cortisol (our stress hormone) while increasing our feel-good hormones, says Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, Ph.D.
4. Become a mirror
Body language expert Christopher Carter says subtly mirroring others is a great way to build an instant connection, but warns mirroring exactly can feel like mocking. For example, if the person you’re with sits down and adopts a relaxed posture, do the same. And if the person's energy is very "up," you can build rapport with him or her by mirroring their energy. Later, once your rapport is established, try lowering your energy, says Carter, and the other person will lower their energy, too.
Laughter is a great mood booster—it allows your muscles to relax, improves our blood sugar, and raises and then beneficially lowers our blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic. Because laughing is a social thing (you’re 30 percent more likely to laugh with others than alone), it decreases isolation. But that laughter better be the real thing: It turns out, the brain can easily detect the difference between real and faked laughter.
6. Spread out
When you’re feeling nervous, uncertain and or afraid, you may find yourself crossing your arms or legs or may be putting your hands in front of our face or mouth. That’s called “body blocking,” and it’s a universal sign of discomfort, Carter says. To feel better, he advises flinging your limbs out and taking up more space. Making yourself and your space bigger conveys confidence, not just to those around you, but also to your brain.
Peggy Conger is a freelance writer who lives on a ranch in New Mexico with 32 horses, assorted dogs and cats, and the occasional mountain lion. She writes about issues important to women at Moxie Lady.