Posted by: kenwbudd | March 30, 2011

Your Posture can Boost your Performance

What do you think about body language? Is it something that expresses your hidden feelings or internal states, to the outside world. Well, if it is then it can also work in reverse. You can use your gestures and posture to influence your mind and your audience.

As psychological research has shown, how we stand, move and gesture can drive your thoughts and feelings and boost your presentation performance.

1. Pose for power
If you want to feel more powerful then adopt a powerful posture. When people stand or sit in a powerful poses for one minute, (open limbs and expansive gestures) they not only felt more powerful but they also increased the levels of testosterone in their systems. Powerful posturing menas taking up more space, so spread your stance, expand your body and open up the arms or legs. When you dominate the space, your mind also gets the message that you have taken charge.

2. Tension increases willpower
Tensing your muscles can help increase your willpower. When people firm up their muscles they are better able to withstand pain, resist tempting food, take an unpleasant medicine and pay attention to disturbing information. So, if you need to increase your willpower, tense your muscles. It should help.

3. Cross arms for persistence
If you’re stuck on a problem which needs persistence then try crossing your arms. Participants in psychological tests did just that and found they worked longer at a set of difficult anagrams. In fact about twice as long and their persistence led to more correct solutions.

4. Lie down for insight
If crossing your arms doesn’t work then try lying down. When anagram solvers lie down, they solved problems faster. Since anagrams are a type of insight problem, lying down may help you reach creative solutions.

5. Napping aids performance
While you’re lying down and gaining insight, why not have a nap? Napping performs a number of functions. If you nap too long, you may suffer from sleep inertia: the feeling of being drowsy for an extended period. But if your nap is too short you will not gain any benefit. You may need to experiment a little to find the ideal time.

Researchers compared 5, 10, 20 and 30 minute naps to find the best length. For increased cognitive performance, vigour and wakefulness, the best naps were 10 minutes long. Benefits were seen immediately after 10 minute naps but after longer naps it took longer to wake up. Five minute naps only provided half the benefit, but were better than nothing.

6. Gesture freely for persuasion
The way people’s hands move and cut through the air while they talk is fascinating but it’s more than just a by-product of communication. Hand-gestures help increase the power of a persuasive message when compared to no use of gesture. Most effective are gestures which make what you are saying more understandable. For example, when referring to the past, point behind you and for the future point ahead!

7. Gesture freely for understanding
Gestures aren’t only helpful for persuading others, they also help us think. In a study of children, it was found that children who were encouraged to gesture while learning, retained more of what they learnt. Moving our hands may help us learn; more generally we actually seem to think with our hands.

8. Smile for happiness
The very act of smiling can make you feel happier, whether it’s justified or not. Research participants holding pens in their mouths could either use the pens to activate the muscles responsible for smiling, or not. Those whose smiling muscles were activated, rated cartoons as funnier than others whose smiling muscles weren’t activated by the pen in their mouth. So, forcing a smile really does make us see the world in a better light.

9. Mimic to empathise
If you want to get inside someone’s head, you can try mirroring or copying their behaviour. Those who are good at empathising do it automatically: copying accent, posture, expressions and so on. If you can copy it, you will feel it yourself and then you’ll get a hint of what others are feeling. It’s what actors have known for years: mimicry is a great way of simulating others’ emotional states.

10. Mirror to comprehend
The idea that mirroring or copying helps us understand others, works for thought as well as emotion. In an experiment, participants found it easier to decipher an unfamiliar accent if they tried to imitate it themselves. Some psychologists go further, claiming that imitating others helps us predict what they are going to do.

Embodied cognition
Many of these topics support a theory about human life (and indeed all life) called ’embodied cognition’. The idea is that we don’t just think with our minds, we also reflect what we are thinking with our bodies. Our mind isn’t a brain in a jar, it is connected to a body which moves around in an environment.

As life becomes increasingly virtual, played out on screens of varying sizes, we need reminding that the connection between mind and body is two-way. Human intelligence is more than abstract processing power; it’s about the interaction between mind, body and the world around us.


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