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How to Be Confident and Reduce Stress in 2 Minutes Per Day

How to Be Confident and Reduce Stress in 2 Minutes Per Day

There is a simple strategy that you can use to reduce anxiety, improve your ability to deal with stress, and boost your confidence.

The best part? It works immediately and only takes two minutes to do.

Here’s the deal…

Your Hormones and Your Confidence

Recent research coming out of Harvard University, The University of Oregon, The University of Texas and many other places is revealing that powerful and effective leaders not only share similar mindsets, but also similar hormone levels. More specifically, powerful leaders tend to have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol.

Higher levels of testosterone (in both men and women) lead to increased feelings of confidence. Meanwhile, lower levels of cortisol lead to decreased anxiety and an improved ability to deal with stress.

Here’s what that means: if you enjoy these hormone levels, then you are biologically primed to be more assertive, confident, and relaxed. At the same time, you will be less reactive to stress and more likely to handle pressure situations well. In other words, the correct hormone levels can make you feel more confident and less stressed.

Sounds good, right?

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What is particularly important about testosterone and cortisol is that your levels of each hormone can change rapidly depending on the social, physical, and environmental cues that surround you.

What does this have to do with feeling more confident?

Well, it turns out that one of the physical cues that impacts these two hormones is body language. And if you understand how to improve your body language, then you can increase your testosterone, decrease your cortisol, and “magically” feel more confident and risk tolerant.

Let’s talk about the link between body language and confidence…

Body Language: The “Power Poses”

Amy Cuddy is a researcher at Harvard University who studies body language and the impact it has on your hormones.

Cuddy and her team have classified different body positions as “high power” or “low power” poses. In general, the high power poses are open and relaxed while the low power poses are closed and guarded.

Below is an image showing the different types of power poses.

body-language-power-poses
    High Power body language is open and relaxed. Low Power body language is closed and guarded.

    Cuddy and her research team studied the impact of high power and low power poses by conducting a research study on 42 students. (Original article available here.)

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    Here’s how the study went down…

    • First, a saliva sample was taken from each subject and their testosterone and cortisol levels were measured.
    • Second, the subject was asked to sit in either a high power pose or a low power pose for two minutes.
    • Third, a second sample of saliva was taken from each subject and their testosterone and cortisol levels were measured again.

    When the researchers looked at the results, they were stunned by the impact that body language had on the hormones within the body. High power poses increased testosterone by 20 percent and decreased cortisol levels by 25 percent.

    Here’s a graph showing the results…

    testosterone-cortisol-power-poses
      High power poses increased testosterone levels by 20% (which boosts confidence) while simultaneously decreasing cortisol levels by 25% (which reduces anxiety).

      This brings us to the most important question…

      How can you make this actionable in your life?

      Stand Like This for 2 Minutes Per Day

      wonder-woman-power-pose-body-language
        From Left to Right: Lynda Carter poses as Wonder Woman (Image courtesy of ABC TV and Amazon Archives). Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF stands in a high power pose (Image courtesy of Amy Cuddy). Beyonce strikes a high power pose during a performance (Image courtesy of Getty Images).

        The most well–known and versatile high power pose is nicknamed “The Wonder Woman” pose. You simple stand tall with your chest out and your hands on your hips. The images above show powerful women like Christine Lagarde and Beyonce in classic “Wonder Woman” pose.

        Just to be clear: despite the nickname and the photos, the impact of these poses is just as relevant to men as it is to women.

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        Making This Work in Real Life

        If you’re aware of it, body language is easy to adjust throughout your day.

        But if you’re anything like me, you’ll get busy with other tasks and completely forget to check your body language. Because of this, I’ve found it most useful to insert a high power pose into my morning routine for 2 or 3 minutes and then move on with the rest of my life.

        Here’s a pattern that I have been playing with recently…

        Each morning, I’ll wake up and stand in a high power pose for two minutes. While I’m doing that, I’ll close my eyes, breathe in deeply for a count of 3, hold for 1, and then breathe out fully for a count of 5. In this way, I combine breathing exercises, meditation, and power poses for a relaxing and confidence–boosting start to the day.

        Plus, it only takes 120 seconds. It’s kind of hard to say you don’t have time for it.

        For more ideas on how to improve your morning routine, read this: 8 Ways to Improve Your Morning Routine

        What You Should Do Now

        “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.”
        — Millard Fuller, Founder of Habitat for Humanity

        Just to be clear: I don’t believe that body language is the end–all and be–all of becoming more confident.

        That said, it is pretty clear that confidence is a two–way street that involves both your mind and body. Sure, your personality and your emotional state will impact your confidence levels, but it’s obvious that assuming better body language, taking up space, and expanding your physical presence can play an important role as well.

        Most importantly, you now have another tool in your toolbox to use whenever you need it.

        If you’re feeling stressed a few minutes before your next presentation, interview, or meeting — take a moment to adjust your posture and stand in a powerful position. Put your hands on your hips, keep your chin up, and your chest out. Doing this for just two minutes will raise your testosterone and increase your confidence, while also decreasing your cortisol and improving your ability to handle stress.

        Your behaviors and emotions are firmly tied. The most powerful leaders don’t merely think a certain way, they carry themselves a certain way. You should do the same.

        Watch Amy Cuddy’s 20–Minute TED Talk

        Want more? You can watch Amy Cuddy talk about her research and the impact of body language in her 20–minute TED Talk. It’s well worth the time.

         This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

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        Featured photo credit: Nathan Rupert via flickr.com

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        James Clear

        James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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        Last Updated on January 15, 2021

        7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

        7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

        The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

        Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

        Posture

        First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

        • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
        • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
        • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
        • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

        All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

        Facial Expressions

        Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

        • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
        • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
        • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

        If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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        1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

        A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

        The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

        This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

        2. Relax Your Face

        New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

        The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

        To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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        3. Improve Your Eye Contact

        Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

        The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

        To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

        3. Smile More

        There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

        Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

        4. Hand Gestures

        Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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        It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

        5. Enhance Your Handshake

        In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

        “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

        It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

        6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

        As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

        Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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        Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

        Final Takeaways

        Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

        If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

        More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

        Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

        Reference

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