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January 15, 2016 by  
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For many years, science has proven that there is a definite mind/body connection. That is, our thoughts and self-talk can stimulate changes in our bodies. We’ve all experienced changes in our bodies when, for example a sudden fearful thought pops into our mind. Our bodies can quickly begin to perspire, produce adrenaline, or make our faces flush.

Likewise, a very pleasant thought or positive self-talk can relax our muscles, slow our heart rate and even lower our blood pressure. If we use that mind/body connection in the right way, we can make big and positive changes in our lives. I have certainly experienced that on the tennis court by doing a lot of specific positive self-talk before I play a match. I repeat over and over again statements like, “I have great stamina and energy,” I have a very powerful serve,” or “I stay positive and upbeat.” On the negative side, I learned a long time ago not to say, at critical times in a match, things like, “Oh, I just can’t double fault now!” as apparently the brain locks onto the “double fault” words and misses the word “can’t”. And yep, that’s when a double fault happens.

But now comes some new discoveries about this connection. It’s kind of the reverse—it’s a body/mind connection. Several recent studies have shown that certain things we do with our bodies send a message to our brain. Those messages can be very helpful or very hurtful.

This body to mind connection was introduced to me just last month when I heard Amy Cuddy, an American social psychologist, talk about it. I was so surprised and impressed that I bought her book, Presence, the first day it was released. What a great return I am getting as I see and understand more about how the body can change your brain.

Last week I quoted Amy on the subject of better ways to set new years’ resolutions by using baby steps and nudging yourself. I thought her advice on goals setting was good but Chapter 8 entitled “The Body Shapes the Mind” uncovers, what I think, are brilliant ideas. Amy Cuddy, along with some very bright collaborators, began experimenting to see if the human body holds certain poses for about two minutes would that affect or change the human mind. They chose 5 positive poses and 5 weak poses. Probably the most powerful pose was standing up very straight, shoulders back with hands on your hips–what she called the superman pose. Not only did that pose make the person feel much more powerful, happy and confident it also improved their body chemistry. By using blood samples and saliva samples they found that the men and women who participated in the study showed a 19 percent increase in testosterone and a 25 percent decrease in cortisol–which is a stress hormone.

On the other those people that held a 2 minutes low-power pose like slumped down in a chair, head down and tucked in arms, had a 10 percent decrease in testosterone and a 17 increase in cortisol. Amy goes on to say “the way you carry yourself is a source of person power–the kind of power that is the key to presence. It’s the key that allows you to unlock yourself, your abilities, your creativity, your courage and even your generosity. Taking control of your body language is not just about posing in a powerful way. It’s also about the fact that we pose in powerless way much more often than we think and we need to change that.”

So when you want to feel better about yourself and feel more powerful in your life, remember that how you hold your body can change things in your brain. I’m going to start power posing before my tennis games like Amy does just before she gives a speech. In the quiet of her hotel room she stands in the superman power pose for 2 minutes which gives her the right attitude and confidence to go out there and give a terrific speech!

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