Want to Feel Happier, More Confident, and More Powerful? Here’s How.

Want to Feel Happier, More Confident, More Powerful - Let Your Body Talk

Changing feelings and thoughts can be difficult (oh there’s an understatement for you!) but here’s some exciting news … there’s a back door, and it starts with your physical experience – the way you move, your surroundings, even what you’re wearing just to name a few. The research on this is growing – and the findings are fascinating …

Before it was even a concept, we were talking the talk of embodied cognition, using metaphors of physical experience to explain thoughts, feelings, emotional responses.

We talk about feeling ‘weighed down’ by guilt – connecting a physical heaviness to the emotion of guilt. We ‘warm up’ to people, others ‘leave us cold’, tying physical temperature to our emotional reactions to people. We ‘weigh up’ different options, giving heavier weighting to more important considerations. Similarly, when we talk about difficult concepts ‘going over our heads’, we align the idea of something being physically out of reach, to our understanding of a concept being similarly beyond grasp. .

The idea that our thoughts are initiated by our physical experience has been demonstrated by an impressive body of research.

Embracing the metaphor ‘something smells fishy’ – a metaphorical expression of suspicion – a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explored the embodied cognition in fishy smells.

Researchers found that participants who were incidentally exposed to fishy smells showed increased suspicion about the intentions of others. Those participants also showed less co-operation in a task that required them to trust others to share resources or responsibilities.

Furthermore, when researchers induced suspicion in participants, those participants showed a heightened sensitivity to fishy smells, and greater accuracy in labelling fishy smells, but not other smells such as apple fragrance oil, minced onion, caramel, and orange nectar.

Another study demonstrated how the physical experience of weight influenced the perception of importance. Basing their study on the observation that heavy objects require more effort and have greater impact the body than light objects, researchers found that when people held a heavier weight, they perceived issues as more important.

Clearly not everything that is important is physically weighty – but – when we speak about people dealing with important things – addiction, break-ups, job loss, depression, we speak about how they have ‘fallen hard’, are ‘dealing with some heavy stuff’ or we ask the question, ‘how much harder do they need to fall?’.

Other research has found that participants judged a stranger more favourably when they were seated in a softer, more comfortable chair, than when they were seated in a harder chair. (All participants reported the chairs as feeling ‘normal’.)

Our thoughts, feelings, physical experience and behavior are inextricably linked. They influence each other. Change one, and the others will eventually catch up.

Thoughts and feelings are generally the most difficult to change but the promise of a recent study is that we can change our cognitions – the processes happening in our mind that might be getting in our way – by attending to our bodily experiences.

In the study, researchers found that people with a greater body awareness showed a greater propensity for mind to be influenced by their body.

What does this mean in everyday life?

Bodily experiences can influence cognition without us realising. So much of our behaviour happens before we are even aware that a decision needs to be made – or has been made.

However, by paying attention to our bodily experiences, we can lift the curtain on our seemingly automatic responses, catch them, influence them (by adjusting our physical experience), and modify behaviour.

To feel more powerful, for example, stand tall. It’s no accident that we talk about ‘shrinking away’ from, or ‘standing up to’, people or challenge.

To feel more confident, more powerful and less anxious, adopt a power pose and hold it for two minutes. Think superhero style with your body expanded, chest out, and hands on hips. 

There is a greater chance of being viewed favourably, or receiving a favourable response when the other person is physically comfortable. Perhaps this is why pillow talk is such an important part of relationships. When we feel relaxed, close, comfortable, conversation is more likely to be patient, relaxed, tender.

The metaphors we use everyday are a clue to embodied cognitions.

Thoughts and feelings can sometimes feel like they are impervious to change, as though while we were sleeping they were set in stone, locked in a vault, and guarded by black suited, unsmiling security guards. The rub is that behaviour, whether healthy or otherwise, shoots out from whatever is happening upstairs.

The good news is that there is a back door, accessible by paying attention to and modifying our bodily experiences. A behaviour, attitude, thought or feeling that isn’t working so well can be shifted by changing something in the physical environment – temperature (warm up to/ freeze out), comfort (soften up/ harden up), posture (open up to or stand up to (the positive)/ shut down to or shrink away from (the negative)), music (calm/powerful/energetic/sleepy), lighting (light up/dim down). Difficult conversation? Offer the comfy chair. Want someone to warm to your point of view? Check the temperature of the room.

The marketers and savvy store owners are already onto this, luring us with colour, images, lighting, music, smells – all without us realising. (Campbell’s Soup have increased sales by removing a spoon and adding steam (which embodies warmth) to their in-store displays.)

Armed with the knowledge that our cognitions are influenced by our bodily experiences, you have a sweet spot for effecting more positive behaviours and responding to the world more effectively.

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When our kids or teens are struggling, it can be hard to know what they need. It can also be hard for them to say. It can be this way for all of us - we don't always know what we need from the people around us. It might be space, or distraction, or silence, or maybe acknowledging and being there is enough. Sometimes we might need to know that the people we love aren't taking our need for space, or our confusion or anger or sadness personally, and that they are still there within reach.
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What can be easier is thinking about what other people might need. Asking this when they are calm can invite a different perspective and can give you some insight into what they need to hear when they are going through similar. Don't worry if you just get a shrug, or a disheartened, 'I don't know'. They don't need to know, and neither do we. The question in itself might be enough to open a new way through any sense of 'stuckness' or helplessness they might be feeling.
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#parenthood #parenting #positiveparenting #parentingtips #childdevelopment #parentingadvice #parentingtip #mindfulparenting #positiveparentingtips #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Give them space to talk but you don’t need to fix anything. You’ll want to, but the answers are in them, not us. Sometimes the answer will be to feel it out, or push for change, or feel the futility of it all so the feeling can let go, knowing it’s done it’s job - it’s recruited support, or raised awareness that something isn’t right.

Sometimes the feelings might be seismic but the words might be gone for a while. That’s okay too. Do they want to start with whatever words are there? Or talk about something else? Or go for a walk with you? Watch a movie with you? Or do a spontaneous, unnecessary drive thru with you just because you can - no words, no need to explain - just you and them and car music for the next 20 minutes. 

The more you can validate what they’re feeling (maybe, ‘Today was big for you wasn’t it’) and give them space to feel, the more they can feel the feeling, understand the need that’s fuelling it, and experiment with ways to deal with it. Sometimes, ‘dealing with it’ might mean acknowledging that there is something that feels big or important and a little out of reach right now, and feeling the fullness and futility of that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days are rubbish, and that sometimes those days last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. But the learning comes from experience.

I wish our kids never felt pain, but we don’t get to decide that. We don’t get to decide how our children grow, but we do get to decide how much space and support we give them for this growth. We can love them through it but we can’t love them out of it. I wish we could but we can’t.

So instead of feeling the need to silence their pain, make space for it. In the end we have no choice. Sometimes all the love in the world won’t be enough to put the wrong things right, but it can help them feel held while they move through the pain enough to find their out breath, and the strength that comes with that.♥️
Speaking to the courage that is coming to life inside them helps to bring it close enough for them to touch, and to imagine, and to step into, even if doesn’t feel real for them yet. It will become them soon enough but until then, we can help them see what we see - a brave, strong, flight-ready child who just might not realise it yet. ‘I know how brave you are.’ ‘I love that you make hard decisions sometimes, even when it would be easier to do the other thing.’ ‘You might not feel brave, but I know what it means to you to be doing this. Trust me – you are one of the bravest people I know.’
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 #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #parentingtip #childdevelopment #braindevelopment #mindfulparenting #parentingtips #parentingadvice
So often, our children will look to us for signs of whether they are brave enough, strong enough, good enough. Let your belief in them be so big, that it spills out of you and over to them and forms the path between them and their mountain. And then, let them know that the outcome doesn't matter. What matters is that they believe in themselves enough to try. 

Their belief in themselves might take time to grow, and that's okay. In the meantime, let them know you believe in them enough for both of you. Try, ‘I know this feels big and I know you can do it. What is one small step you can take? I’m right here with you.’♥️
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 #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #parentingtip #childdevelopment #braindevelopment #mindfulparenting
Anxiety will tell our kiddos a deficiency story. It will focus them on what they can't do and turn them away from what they can. We know they are braver, stronger, and more powerful than they could ever think they are. We know that for certain because we’ve seen it before. We’ve seen them so held by anxiety, and we’ve seen them move through - not every time but enough times to know that they can. Even when those steps through are small and awkward and uncertain, they are brave. Because that’s how courage works. It’s fragile and strong, uncertain and powerful. We know that that about courage and we know that about them. 

Our job as their important adults is to give them the experiences that will help them know it too. This doesn't have to happen in big leaps. Little steps are enough, as long as they are forward. 

When their anxiety has them focused on what they can't do, focus them on what they can. By doing this, we are aligning with their capacity for brave, and bringing it into the light. 

Anxiety will have them believing that there are only two options - all or nothing; to do or not to do. So let's introduce a third. Let's invite them into the grey. This is where brave, bold beautiful things are built, one tiny step at a time. So what does this look like? It looks like one tiny step at a time. The steps can be so small at first - it doesn't matter how big they are, as long as they are forward. 
If they can't stay for the whole of camp, how much can they stay for?
If they can't do the whole swimming lesson on their own, how much can they do?
If they can't sleep all night in their own bed, how long can they sleep there for?
If they can't do the exam on their own, what can they do?
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When we do this, we align with their brave, and gently help it rise, little bit, by little bit. We give them the experiences they need to know that even when they feel anxious, they can do brave, and even when they feel fragile they are powerful.

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