Right now, whether you are aware of it or not, your body is adjusting to meet the demands of the moment. That could mean shifting positions in your seat to get more comfortable while reading this article. Yet, most of the time we have no idea what our body is doing, or what micro messages it is communicating to us and others.
What’s miraculous about us as human beings, however, is that we have the ability to catch and influence these movements. By being aware of your body movements, you can increase your intelligence, alter your mood on demand and improve your communications with others.
Turn Up the Dial on Your ‘Smart Meter’
Your brain can take cues from body movements to understand and solve complex problems. In 2009, University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras, along with Laura Thomas of Vanderbilt University, conducted a study on problem-solving and body movement. They set out to test if a person’s ability to solve a complex problem could be influenced by how he or she moves. They tested 52 University of Illinois students. The results showed that body motion affects higher-order thought and complex problem-solving.
“People tend to think that their mind lives in their brain, dealing in conceptual abstractions, very much disconnected from the body,” Lleras and Thomas reported. “This emerging research is fascinating because it is demonstrating how your body is a part of your mind in a powerful way. The way you think is affected by your body, and, in fact, we can use our bodies to help us think.”
Create More Happiness and Less Stress
In social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” she noted that “power posing”—such as raising your arms above your head as if someone had just scored a touchdown—increases testosterone in your body and decreases cortisol, the stress hormone. “Contracted movements, on the other hand, diminish your personal power and, in turn, your effectiveness,” she says.
Movement awareness is a great sensor that can alert you when chronic, subconscious thinking patterns kick in. For example, you might notice your whole body becomes tense when you try to take control of a situation you would be better off letting go. Or you might look down and see your leg shaking furiously, which could indicate that you are getting anxious or bored.
Start observing your body movements—and breathe, move, lift up your arms and wave your hands. Throw your shoulders back and expand your chest. Shake that tail feather. Then watch your mood shift almost instantly. Don’t worry. Make an expansive move, and be happy.
Look Better, Respond Better
We all walk around with our own “billboard.” We’re communicating messages about what we are thinking and feeling. For most of us, this is largely unconscious, whole-body communication. It includes vocal tones and inflections, physical gestures, postures, involuntary movements, breathing, pacing of speech, and many other subtle and not-so subtle signals. If you broadcast mixed messages, you’ll get mixed messages in return. That incongruence generally results in confusion, difficulty and self-sabotage.
The messages we broadcast on our billboard can mean the difference between success and failure, intimacy and isolation, health and sickness. Conversely, when we are conscious of our body movements, then we can be aware of what we’re feeling and communicating, and begin to function with natural confidence, power and efficiency, and connect more authentically with others.
Your challenge: Begin observing your movements with awareness, as a new tool to help you access your deepest truth in an efficient way. Doing so will move you in the right direction and improve your thinking, mood and interactions with yourself and others.
Prior to being a successful author, speaker and trainer, Steve Sisgold applied the principles he teaches in the business world. He owned an advertising and public relations firm and was No. 1 of 500 salespeople in Konica Corporation. His bestselling books, What’s Your Body Telling You? and Whole Body Intelligence, launched at No. 1 on Amazon in several categories. Learn more at WholeBodyIntelligence.com.