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What Does Your Body Language Say About You?

When you talk, you hope that people — co-workers, friends, your bae, that lady behind the counter — hear what you say. But how you stand, sit, listen, and smile, aka your non-verbal communication, can say as much about you as your words. Your body language, according to researchers, can affect the way you feel. So if you want to boost your mood, elevate your confidence, or zap stress, #BreaktheMold by trying some of these physical (and mental) tweaks.

Strike a pose; there’s something to it

In the old days, women walked around balancing books on their heads to improve posture thus looking sophisticated and ladylike. Now our goals are more about having self-confidence, both personally and professionally. Time to try out the “power pose,” from Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, PhD. Her 2012 TED Talk on how body language shapes who you are is insanely popular (we’re talking second most-watched). According to Cuddy’s (admittedly controversial) research, assuming an open-wide stance — hands on hips, feet planted wide, and chin up — for a couple of minutes, will make you feel more powerful. She claims that this and other expansive postures make you feel more powerful and willing to take risks by increasing testosterone (which gives a sense of dominance) and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol. So, power up before your next job interview by nipping into the break room and giving your inner Wonder Woman a whirl.

Lean in, literally

When you’re sealing a deal, Cuddy recommends a position she calls “the Loomer,” in which you plant your hands on a table or desk and lean forward. She reportedly based it on President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was six foot four inches tall and used his height to intimidate and influence. Or you could channel Sheryl Sandberg when you lean in. In Sandberg’s case, she doesn’t just mean it literally and physically — her book is all about ways to empower women in the workplace.

Pick me! Pick me!

You’ve gone to hear your favorite writer ever read from her work at a local bookstore, and you’ve got a question that must be answered. When you raise your hand, throw your shoulders back and reach for the sky. Cuddy says this relates to how animals show dominance--by making themselves big and taking up space. You’re saying: I’ve got this! CALL ON ME!

You rock

Cuddy’s “Performer” pose, aka standing with arms high and legs wide (like you’ve just crushed the closing bars of your fave power ballad and the crowd is going wild) is a way to rev up your confidence. Doing this in the cafe where you’re meeting your Tinder date might seem a little weird, but feel free to pop into a secluded spot to psych yourself up before a date or any important event.

Picture perfect

It’s called the “squinch,” and photographer Peter Hurley says this look will make you look better in pictures. Here’s a how to: Squint your upper eyelids slightly and kind of “pinch” in your lower lids. IMO, it makes you look like a badass. However, I’m more of a fan of “smizing,” aka smiling with your eyes (concept courtesy of Tyra Banks), which makes you look like you have an amusing secret and are probably the most interesting person in the room.

Got the low down blues?

Feeling a little down? Your blue mood could literally be caused by what holistic health expert Erik Peper, PhD, calls a “collapsed” posture. According to his research, your body can affect your mood and vice versa. He advocates turning your frown upside down by standing up (if you’re sitting), or, if you’re already up, standing up straighter for a couple of minutes. A crumpled pose crushes your mood, according to his research. (Yeah, so your mom was right when she told you to sit up straight.)

Shake it on

Nodding or shaking your head can affect how you hear and evaluate a message, according to a 2003 study. Participants who nodded their heads while listening to a persuasive message versus a not-very-persuasive message had more confidence in their perception of the content than when they did so shaking their heads. The take-home message here: When someone is pitching you a project or trying to lasso you into that girl's’ trip to a tropical island, give it the nod to help your decision-making.

If you try out any of these tips IRL, tell your story on social media using the hashtag #BreakTheMold and we'll share our favorites!

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