A Body of Power

Deborah Gruenfeld from the Stanford Graduate School of Business researches how the body can affect one’s psychological framework. In a study her research group performed, they found that folks who assumed closed off or weak physical positions, felt disempowered while those who assumed more open or expansive physical positions (in their study - for five minutes), like putting your hands behind your head or putting your feet up on a table, reported feeling more empowered.

They were able to support the research study participant’s reported feelings by also testing their hormones. Those who reported feeling more powerful also had higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol. This was after 5 minutes. Her research also shows that feelings of empowerment lead to action.

The conclusion you can draw from this? When you’re feeling down or powerless, if you literally move your body into an expansive position (e.g., lean back in a chair and put your hands behind your head, put your feet up on your desk, take up all the room in your chair, rest your arm on the back of your chair and another’s) you can change how you feel. While the magnitude of the effect on each participant (how dramatic the change was for that person) could not be determined, the results were statistically significant, meaning greater than chance.