Your body language is a fundamental part of who you are; chances are you don't even think about how you stand, sit, and move. You should, of course, because other people instinctively pick up the nonverbal signals you send.
Oddly enough, you also pick up on your own nonverbal signals. Gestures and postures make a dramatic impact on how you think, feel, and perform.
Want to use body language to be an even better you? Here are ten simple ways:
1. Flex your muscles to boost your willpower and determination.
You know how you instinctively tense up before you have blood drawn? That's your body's way of trying to minimize pain.
Flexing your muscles also helps you to stay more focused when you hear negative information. Flexing can even increase your ability to resist eating tempting food.
(Sounds like we should be flexing all day.)
2. Lie down to be more creative and innovative.
According to Australia National University professor Dr. Darren Lipnicki, lying down can lead to creative breakthroughs.
"It might be that we have our most creative thoughts while flat on our back," he says. One reason might be that more of the chemical noradrenaline is released while we're standing, and noradrenaline could inhibit our ability to think creatively.
Now you have a great excuse to lay back and think.
3. Cross your arms to feel determined and persistent.
Oddly enough, crossing your arms will make you stick with an "unsolvable" problem a lot longer and will make you perform better on solvable problems.
That's definitely cool, because persistence is a trait most successful entrepreneurs need in abundance.
Whenever you feel stuck, try folding your arms against your torso. And then keep pushing ahead!
4. Stand like Superman to feel more confident.
According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing -- standing tall, holding your arms out or toward the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on your hips -- will dramatically increase your level of confidence.
Try this one before you step into a situation where you know you'll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.)
I do it for a few minutes before every speaking gig. It definitely works.
5. Smile to reduce your stress levels.
Frowning, grimacing, and other negative facial expressions signal your brain that whatever you are doing is difficult. So your body responds by releasing cortisol, which raises your stress levels.
Stress begets more stress... begets more stress... and in no time, you're a hot mess.
Here's the cure: Make yourself smile. You'll feel less stress even if nothing else about the situation changes.
And there's a bonus: When you smile, other people feel less stress, too. Which, of course, will reduce your stress levels. So kill two stresses with one smile.
(By the way, smiling also makes working out easier. Say you're doing reps with a heavy weight; naturally you'll grimace. But if you force yourself to smile, you'll often find you can do one or two more reps. Try it -- but be prepared for when other gym rats look at you oddly.)
6. Tilt your head forward to make others (and yourself) feel comfortable.
Tilting your head forward slightly when you meet someone shows deference and humility and helps remove any perceived differences in status.
The next time you meet someone, tilt your head forward slightly, smile, make eye contact, and show you are honored by the introduction.
We all like people who like us, so if I show you I'm genuinely happy to meet you, you'll instantly start to like me. And you will show you like me... and that will help calm my nerves and help me be myself.
7. Mimic other people to better understand their feelings.
Sounds strange, but research shows that imitating other people's nonverbal expressions can help you understand the emotions they are experiencing.
Since we all express our emotions nonverbally, copying those expressions affects our own emotions due to an "afferent feedback mechanism."
In short: Mimic my expressions and you'll better understand how I feel -- which means you can better help me work through those feelings. Plus, mimicking facial expressions (something we often do without thinking) makes the other person feel the interaction was more positive.
8. Stand at an angle to reduce interpersonal tension.
When tensions are high, standing face to face automatically feels confrontational.
When what you have to say may make another person feel challenged, shift your feet slightly to stand or sit at an angle. And if you're confronted, don't back away.
Just shift to that slight angle. You'll implicitly reduce any perceived confrontation and may make an uncomfortable conversation feel less adversarial.
9. Use your hands to improve your memory.
Research shows requiring children to speak while they are learning has no effect on enhancing learning -- but requiring them to gesture helps them retain the knowledge they gain.
If it works for kids, it will work for us, too. According to one researcher, "Gesturing can thus play a causal role in learning, perhaps by giving learners an alternative, embodied way of representing new ideas."
Sounds good to me.
10. Chew gum to be perkier and happier.
OK, so chomping on a wad of gum may not look particularly professional. Still, a number of studies show chewing gum can make you more alert.
And improve your reaction times.
And improve selective and sustained attention.
And improve your disposition.
Here's a thought: The next time you need to solve a difficult problem, lie down, cross your arms, and pop in a stick of gum. Maybe, just maybe, that's the winning combination you need to achieve your next breakthrough.