Finding your inner wonder woman

Would you believe that your posture is capable of affecting your inner hormonal balance? It’s amazing but true.

In the last blog series on stress, we looked at the detrimental effects that long-term stress has on our health and the appearance of our skin. One of the reasons this occurs is the unfavourable hormonal balance that stress results in as cortisol levels rise and DHEA/testosterone levels plummet. Rebalancing these two hormones is an important part of becoming stress resilient and it is now known that this can be a surprisingly easy situation to correct.

Researchers have discovered that adopting different postures for as little as two minutes can change the balance of these hormones in our bodies. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and professor at Harvard Business School, has done lots of ground-breaking research in this area and has discovered that something as simple as your posture can very quickly and effectively rebalance cortisol and DHEA/testosterone levels to a more favourable profile for your health.

Studies were done that demonstrate that assertive or dominant postures held for as little as two minutes, will raise your DHEA/testosterone and lower your cortisol. Alternatively, passive or submissive postures will have the opposite effect, increasing your stress hormone, cortisol and lowering your DHEA/testosterone.

So what postures are considered assertive? Anything that expands your body like standing with your feet apart and your hands on your hips like the classic Wonder Woman pose. Another very effective posture is the victory position, which involves raising your arms above your head in a ‘V’ shape. Watch any runner when they win a race and you will see this instinctive pose as they cross the finish line.

Passive poses that increase your level of stress hormones involve anything that makes your body appear smaller, like hunching your shoulders, crossing your legs or bowing your head. These postures can be seen with anyone using their phone to text. Isn’t it interesting how adopting modern technology like texting can increase our stress simply by the posture it draws you into? Keep an eye out for the next blog post that will go into more interesting information in regards to posture!

Another interesting discovery that Amy Cuddy and her fellow scientists found is that practising these postures can change the way others perceive you. In one study they divided potential job applicants with very similar qualifications and experience into two groups. The first group was instructed to practise an assertive pose for two minutes in private prior to their interview with an independent panel. The second group was asked to practice a passive posture for the same length of time. The results of the study showed that those applicants who had practised the assertive posture prior the interview (but not during) were perceived to be more educated, more experienced and better suited to the job than those that were asked to practise the passive pose. To learn more about this interesting area of research, check out Amy Cuddy in her TED Talks on YouTube like the one below.

So if you want to improve the ways others perceive you, feel more confident or reduce the effect of stress, spend just two minutes a day in an assertive pose. This may mean heading off to the bathroom to practise your assertive posture in private before a big event or even better, making time each day to stand with your feet apart, hands on hips and pay homage to your inner Wonder Woman.

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  • June 6, 2014