9 Surprising Ways Your Body Can Influence Your Mind

Most of us are aware that a positive attitude improves health and speeds recovery from illness.  But what about the other way around? Embodied Cognition is a term describing how the way we move affects the way we think and feel. 

An early study in this fascinating field showed that holding a pencil horizontally between your teeth activates the same muscles used for smiling...sending pleasure signals to our brain.  Other research shows that people who have Botox injected to reduce laughter lines are less happy afterwards, and those who have Botox injected to reduce frown lines are happier.   

If you've ever cried during a massage you will know that muscles are not simply an amalgamation of tissue and fibres.  They contain delicate traces of our emotional lives.  And have the capacity to engender feelings without the executive influence of the mind.

Our body can be an originator of feeling, and a powerful co-creator of our emotional experience.  And there's research to back it up.  Here are 9 of my favourite studies.  

1.    Have a hot a bath if you’re feeling lonely

Research shows taking a hot bath wards off feelings of social isolation and loneliness. On the subject of warmth, holding a cup of hot rather than iced coffee makes you more likely to see generosity and goodness in others.  This is part of a growing consensus that physical warmth is associated with interpersonal warmth.

2.    Tense your muscles if you need will power

An interesting study has shown that if you tense your muscles you are more likely to be able to resist tempting food, take unpleasant medicine and pay attention to disturbing information.

3.    Open your arms if you’re in pain

Psychologists have shown that if you stand with your arms and legs outstretched you will be more tolerant to pain.  Powerful postures make you feel more in control, even if you're not.

4.    Walk happily to remember more positive stuff

Shoulders back, arms swinging, chin high and a bounce in your step.  Psychologists have now shown that you are more likely to attend to and remember positive information if you do this.

5.    Cross your arms for persistence

Try crossing your arms when you’re next faced with a difficult task.  Research indicates you will be more likely to persevere and more likely to come up with the right solution to the problem if you do.

6.    Lie down for creativity

In this study people were more able to solve anagram puzzles when they were lying down rather than when they were standing up.  It appears to stimulate insight.

7.    Relax your body to make better decisions

One study has shown that keeping your body in a state of relaxation allows you to take in new information and make better decisions. 

8.    Wear sunglasses to feel less angry

An unusual study showed that people walking towards the sun without sunglasses were more likely to express anger than those with sunglasses.  The muscles used to shield naked eyes are the same as those used to frown. 

9.    Jump for joy

In this study literally jumping up and down made people feel happier.

Of course science is backing up what we have always known.  Our language has for decades shown our intuitive understanding of the connection between our minds and bodies.  We know about gritting our teeth, shouldering the burden, facing the music, having a stiff upper lip.  So if you need a little extra help with your mood, let your body do the work for a while.





Image credit: 55Laney69

Alice HaddonBodyComment