The Magical Power of Physiology

The way we carry ourselves, the position of our bodies has an amazing impact on how we feel and yet, how much attention do we pay to this?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately as I watch how people walk. Yes, you read that correctly—how people walk. Some walk with arrogance; some walk with great self-confidence; and some walk as if they’re hoping no one will notice them.

For example, I am writing this column in my favorite coffee shop and I just watched a woman walk across the room with shoulders slumped and her posture folded in; she carried her body as if completely disconnected from it. When she sat down, I took a closer look and noticed that her hair, make-up and clothing were perfect. My guess is that she stands in front of her mirror in the morning thinking she looks great. And she does, if she were to simply hold that pose all day long. However, if she saw herself on film as she walks, she would realize that all the time spent on trying to look good is wasted. Her body delivers the message—to her and to the rest of the world—that she lacks self-confidence. All the outer fixings in the universe cannot change that.

Why is this important? Because your physiology delivers to your brain distinct messages about how you are feeling in the moment. If your fists or jaw are clenched, your brain interprets that as extreme duress. If you are smiling, your brain’s interpretation is that you are happy. And even if you’re dressed in rags, when you hold yourself in a pose of self-confidence, the feelings follow.

Here is the magic of physiology: your brain does not know the difference between pretend and reality—all it knows is where you are focused. This is why books, music, movies and where we place our attention have such a profound impact. Have you ever been in a perfectly good mood, gone to a sad movie and walked out feeling blue? If there were a camera on you as you watched the film you would see your physiology change in response to the story. The quickest way to recover from this is to change your physiology. It turns out that “shake it off” is sage advice.

If you were crazy enough to allow it, I could teach you how to put yourself into a state of depression. All you need to do is slump your shoulders, collapse your core so it’s mushy, cast your eyes down, frown and breathe very shallow. Within minutes, I guarantee you will feel down. If you do it for a long period of time, you will be depressed.

On the flip side, if you are already feeling down, you can pull out of it by doing the opposite: sit or stand up straight, pull your stomach muscles tight, look out at the world, grin from ear to ear and breathe very deeply. Within minutes you would feel your mood lift. Imagine how great you’d feel if you did that for a long period of time.

We are in the midst of the holidays, a time when using the magical power of physiology can mean the difference between a season that reminds you how wonderful the holidays can be or the kind you cannot wait to be over and done with.

Here are some physiological “tricks” that will quickly elevate your mood:

Smile. If you really want to go for it, grin from ear-to-ear.
Sing. There’s holiday music playing everywhere. When you sing along, your brain gets the message you are in a good mood.
Laugh. This is a quick way to go from feeling stressed to feeling blessed.
Extend the hand of friendship. Doing for others is guaranteed to elevate your mood.
Dance. You can’t dance without music and when your brain hears music with a dance beat, it makes you—well, want to dance!
Hang out with happy children. Kids have their priorities straight—it’s all about what makes them happy.

The Law of Attraction says that you get more of what you focus on. When you “act as if” you immediately shift your brain’s focus. Ask yourself how you want to feel, adjust your body accordingly and watch how quickly you feel the way you want.

That’s the magical power of physiology!

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