The Proven Way to Feel Less Anxious, More Confident & More Empowered in Two Minutes

The Proven Way to Feel Less Anxious, More Confident, & More Empowered in Two Minutes

Anxiety is such a human experience. Anyone who has stretched themselves far enough to do something brave would have scraped against it in some way. If anxiety could, it would throw its wild warrior arms around us, smother us with kisses and tell us it was there to keep us safe by warning us of danger and getting us ready to deal with it. Too often though, that ‘danger’ is more a challenge than a threat, and what we need is not to be held back from it, but for anxiety to step aside so we can move boldly through the middle of it.

Groundbreaking research from Amy Cuddy at Harvard has found a way to make this happen and to feel more empowered, confident and to have greater influence – and it only takes a couple of minutes. By striking a ‘power pose’ and holding it for two minutes, anyone can feel more like boss of the world, even on those days when feeling boss of your toothbrush is a stretch. And we’ve all had them.

We tend to be steered by our thoughts and our feelings, but our actions can have enormous influence over the way we feel and the way we are seen. It all has to do with the mind-body connection. We know that our minds have a spectacular capacity to influence what we feel in our body. Anxiety is one example of this. If our brain tells us there’s something to worry about, our body instantly feels the full effect – a racy heart, clammy skin, butterflies, dry mouth, sick, tense, wobbly. One thing that can be said about anxiety is that it’s thorough, even if a little misguided at times.

The mind-body connection also works the other way. What we do with our body has the capacity to influence how we feel, which affects our behaviour, which in turn changes the way we are seen. What this means its that we all have a profound capacity to influence how we are perceived by others.

Feel less anxious, more confident? Tell me how.

Striking a power pose for two minutes will change the brain in ways that will reduce anxiety and build confidence and assertiveness. This, in turn, will change the way others experience you. The pose can be done in private. It’s not important that other people see the power pose in full flight, as glorious as that is likely to be. What’s important are the physiological changes that are triggered by the pose. These are what will have the effect on the way you actually feel, which will in turn have an effect on the way you are seen.

Any pose that increases the space your body occupies is a power pose. Think Superman with legs wide apart, hands stretched out in front, chin up, chest out. Alternatively, channelling Wonder Woman – legs apart, hands on hips, shoulders back and chest – will also have the same effect. Ditto for a starfish pose – arms and legs outstretched and wide apart. In short, a power pose is anything that makes your physical presence bigger.

We make our minds up about people in seconds. Though these impressions are never a definitive guide to the other, we are very quick to pick up signals relating to warmth, approachability, confidence and influence. There are evolutionary reasons for this – we need to be able to figure out quickly if the person in front of us is more likely to be a lover or a hater. To make these judgements, we look at a host of non-verbal signs including posture, facial expressions, and general physical presence.

Striking a power pose for two minutes will effect those non-verbals in a positive, powerful way. When our body is allowed to feel powerful for a couple of minutes, our mind will listen and will project this image forward. 

Convince me. What’s the evidence?

The research on this was conducted at Harvard by Amy Cuddy and colleagues, and the results have profound implications for all of us. The study found that when people held certain poses, there were measurable changes in the levels of testosterone (the dominance hormone) and cortisol (the stress hormone). Specifically, when people expanded themselves into a high power pose for two minutes, they experienced a 20% increase in testosterone and a 25% decrease in cortisol. Higher testosterone leads to greater confidence, while lower cortisol leads to an increased capacity to deal with stress. It’s a powerful combination. 

On the other hand, low-power poses, which is any poses that diminishes or shrinks physical presence, lead to a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol. This means less power and higher stress. Any pose that diminishes the physical presence will have the effect of increasing stress levels and lowering confidence, causing you to be seen as less influential, less confident and more anxious. Low-power poses include hunching, folding the arms, crossing the knees and ankles tightly while sitting, or touching the face or neck. 

The beautiful thing about power posing is that it can be done anywhere at any time. It can be used to full effect before a job interview, a date, an exam, against the bullies, negotiating the price of a car, before a presentation, when you want schoolbags dropped somewhere other than the doorway, when you want to say ‘no’ but feel like you’re going to say ‘ahhh not sure … maybe … okay … love to … absolutely’, or any situation that feeling more powerful and more confident will boost you.

Remember, the pose doesn’t have to be visible to your audience – that’s the brilliant thing about it. You might not want to ‘Wonder Woman’ it in the middle of a job interview, but taking time before-hand will make a difference to your physiology, the way you feel and the way you are seen. 

Our minds can tend to have a mind of their own and when they do, they can be persuasive. They can undermine confidence and influence the way we are seen by others. Regardless of how we feel or what we think, expanding ourselves physically by way of a two-minute power pose, is a proven and powerful way to be more present, more confident, more assertive and more influential. 

5 Comments

S

LOVE THIS! ❤️ Thank you for this wonderful article and for the empowering and positive influence your organization puts out into the world! We need it.

Reply
Wendy

My mother is a covert narcissist and has completely turned our family upside down since she moved here and actually since we were younger but she looks like Martha Stewart however my husband was brutally attacked as a child and has been going in and out and on and off the medication and is 60 they are looking for a therapist that specializes and digging deep what they called naturalization therapy what do you think of this type of therapy

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Wendy I’m sorry this is happening to your family. One person can do so much damage can’t they. Naturalization therapy isn’t a type of therapy I’m familiar with, so I’m not able to comment on that with any authority. I hope your parents are able to find the support they need.

Reply
Isobel Harries

I listened to a programme about this very subject on BBC Radio 4, Women’s Hours recently. I have been striking up my Wonder Woman pose every day since and it really does help me feel better and more significant.

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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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