Body language is usually considered from one angle: How does your emotional state of mind affect your body language? But this is only half of the picture. But there is another aspect to consider:

Amy Cuddy The Power Pose

Amy Cuddy
The Power Pose

Our physical actions, gestures and expressions can directly impact our emotional state of mind – for better or for worse.

The research into this area of science is extensive – and intriguing. Let’s take a look at 6 ways that you can change your body language to increase your happiness and confidence…

1) The High Power Pose

Researcher Amy Cuddy from Harvard has found that high power poses can increase your own confidence in yourself. And it’s more than a feeling – researchers found an actual increase in testosterone among participants in the study.

You’ve likely seen ‘Power Poses’ before. Take a look at the graphic below, and guess which are high-power poses. You should instinctively be able to identify them: It’s poses A, D and F.


Changes in posture don’t need to be overly drastic to show results. Small changes can make a difference. Cuddy found that as little as two minutes in a high-power pose can produce beneficial results on both self-confidence and hormone levels.1

How To Make It Work For You

  • Stand in a ‘Power Pose’ at home, or anywhere private, for just a couple of minutes a day to give yourself a boost in confidence.
  • Duck into the bathroom before an important interview or meeting and hold yourself in a power pose. Don’t feel foolish – I’ve done this several times and seen great results.
  • When you’re feeling self-conscience, perhaps at a big party where you don’t know anybody, try a subtle version of the pose to give your confidence a nudge.

2) The Simple Smile

Smiling is the result of being happy. It’s more surprising (and helpful to know), however, that smiling makes you happy.

Just like the power pose, the positive effects of smiling are more than an illusion – the physical effects on the body have been measured repeatedly and always show the same results: If you want to be happy, smiling can help.


Smiling will make you happy!

Researchers have shown that holding a pencil in your teeth, which activates the same muscles as a smile, can cause you to comprehend positive phrases faster than negative ones.2 The opposite is also true. If you hold a pencil between your upper lip and nose, causing a frown, you’ll comprehend the negative phrases more quickly.

How To Make It Work For You

  • When you’re feeling sad, smile!
  • Spend time around people who smile often, it’s contagious!

Added Bonuses of Smiling

  • It makes you more attractive to others.
  • It can boost your immune system by helping you to relax.
  • It can lower your blood pressure.

3) Nodding (or Shaking) Your Head

8518219188_2bc8058ecc_oA 2003 study at Ohio State University placed participants in a conversation, and asked them to either nod in agreement with what the researchers said, or shake their heads in disagreement.

Without the participants even realizing it, their physical actions affected their opinions: Those who nodded their heads were more likely to agree with the researcher while those who shook their heads were more likely to disagree.

How To Make It Work For You

  • Perhaps you are having a disagreement with your wife, and you know that your emotional need to ‘win’ the argument is going to block your ability to see your wife’s point of view. In order to increase your receptiveness, try nodding your head slightly while she is speaking.
  • Conversely, let’s say you’ve been spending too much time at the bar and your buddies are tempting you with an invitation out. Try shaking your head while you speak to solidify your internal disagreement with their pleas.

4) Sitting (and Standing) Up Straight

StraightDutch behavioral scientist Erik Peter had found that sitting up straight makes it more likely that you will recall positive memories or generally positive thoughts. Similar results were found by clinical psychologists at the University of Hildesheim and the Ruhr University Bochum, in Germany.3

Secondly, research at Ohio State University has shown that sitting up straight (and generally good posture, for that matter) results in more confidence in ones own abilities and thoughts.4

Additionally, sitting up straight helps others to perceive you as having more authority or power. By doing so in a meeting or other social gathering, you should notice the people around you showing you more respect, and giving you more attention. This extra respect and attention can support your feelings of worth and confidence and, in turn, make you happier.

postureHow To Make It Work For You

  • Whenever you sit, sit up straight!
  • Use a wearable aid to support you in sitting up straight. I use the Lumo Back, with great results. Whenever I get distracted by what I’m working on and start to slouch, it offers a gentle vibration to remind me to sit up straight.

Added Bonuses of Sitting Up Straight

  • It’s better for your back. If you have back pain, pay special attention to your posture.
  • It can help reduce your fears, according to a study in Health Psychology.5 So sit up straight while you are waiting in the lobby before your next interview!
  • It can also make you more productive, according to Dana Carney at University of California, Berkeley.6
  • It can increase your oxygen intake by about 30%, contributing to a nice energy boost!7

5) Walk with Bounce

Skipping down the street can put you into a happier mood, while walking in a slumped position with your head down can put you in a sour mood – or, if you are already feeling down, make you feel worse.8 You may not want to skip down the hall at your office, but at least walk with your head high and a bit of bounce to keep your mood elevated!

How To Make It Work For You

  • Whenever you have the chance (and maybe when nobody is looking…), skip!
  • If you are feeling particularly down, find a place where you can skip, just for a moment, in peace.

6) Look Away, and Take a Break

We live in a society where taking a break is considered a luxury, available only to those who aren’t as insanely busy as we are. However, some of the world’s most productive and accomplished individuals understand the power of taking breaks.

10 PomodoroYou may have stumbled upon this power yourself accidentally. If you have ever had a nagging problem that you couldn’t solve, only to find the answer in your mind while you are commuting or in the shower, then you’ve sampled the glory of break-taking.

Taking a break is most certainly not a waste of time. Many areas of our brains become more active when we daydream, according to new research.9 Disengaging your focus from the task at hand can support your ability to solve whatever has been bugging you – which will help to ease your mind and boost your confidence!

Mind Wandering“When you’re focusing, you’re actually blocking your access to the diffuse mode. And the diffuse mode, it turns out, is what you often need to be able to solve a very difficult, new problem.”

Barbara Oakley, Professor of Engineering at Oakland University10

How To Make It Work For You

  • Try the Pomodoro Technique: Set a timer for 25 minutes. Focus your energy intensively on the task at hand during this time. Then, take a break for 5 minutes. Then, repeat. There are many apps available for all devices to help with this – just search for ‘Pomodoro.’ If you don’t get up and move around, make sure to at least look away from your computer to both clear your mind and exercise your eyes to reduce eye strain.
  • Pre-plan two 15-minute breaks every day. 3 PM Is typically the least productive time of day for anybody, so try to plan one break at this time. I’ve taken a walk after lunch for years, and don’t ever plan to stop.


16241388115_97b8cba141_oIt’s too easy to read an article like this, see the benefit, then do nothing to integrate these habits into your daily life. That is why you should build these habits into your daily routine systematically. You can set alerts on your phone to take breaks, put ‘rest’ meetings in your calendar to block off time, install a Pomodoro app on your phone, buy a posture monitoring device, or anything else that works for you. Whatever you do, make sure you do something!

Now, take a break, smile, stand up straight, skip down to the bathroom and hold yourself in a power pose for 2 minutes!

CC Images courtesy of Nana B Agyei, Makena Zayle Gadient, Chris & Karen Highland, and Ape Lad on Flickr

Keith Parker

Author Keith Parker

I have a passion for research into both happiness and the human race's tendency to make decisions that aren't in their own interest. As it turns out, the two areas of research are undeniably linked. Over the past decade, I've discovered a significant number of methods to achieve happiness. Unfortunately, there is a lot of information to digest (sorry, there is no simple 'one-step to a happy life'). For this reason, I launched this blog, A Happy Life, to share a combination of what I've learned through research and through experience. That experience, through over 20 countries and ending in Dubai, UAE, covers some pretty wild territory. I hope you enjoy the ride with me.

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