5 Ways Your Body Language Affects You
“The human body is the best picture of the human soul.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ontological learning recognizes emotion, form (body), and language as three interconnected spheres that determine our way of being. This is perhaps best illustrated in our body language, where our awareness puts all three spheres on clear display.
And while it makes sense that our bodies can convey meaning and express emotion to those around us, it is equally important to recognize that body language is really a two-way-street. Our body language doesn’t just broadcast meaning, it actually affects how we think and feel as well.
- Crossed Arms
Most people are familiar with the idea that crossed arms are a subconscious sign that the person is not open to ideas. We’ve been taught to recognize this posture as “closed,” and for good reason. Folding the arms is really a defense mechanism that protects our heart and lungs. Primates have been observed doing the same thing when they feel threatened.
But studies have shown that adopting this posture can actually make a person more persistent and determined. So, while we may cross our arms in response to something we find disagreeable, the act itself is likely to make us less willing to change our minds about it.
- Power Pose
Another expression of body language that has been observed in animals is what’s known as a “power pose.” Social animals in the wild will puff up their chests and broaden their arms to take up more space as a way of establishing dominance over others. In humans, this kind of pose is read as a sign of confidence. That’s why we often see superheroes depicted in this posture.
It turns out that there is a physiological reason for this. Studies have shown that adopting this posture can boost our testosterone by as much as 20%, while at the same time lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Thus, the power pose not only makes us appear more confident, it makes us feel that way as well.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is slouching. Chances are that as a child you were told not to slouch by a parent or teacher. And with good reason, because poor posture can develop into serious spinal problems. But it’s more likely that you were told not to slouch because it makes a person appear sad, diminished, sad, and low-energy.
And as you’ve probably guessed, a study has shown that’s exactly the effect slouching has upon us. Not only does slouching make us appear depressed and feel depressed, but it has been shown to make depressed individuals even more depressed.
- Eye Contact
Making eye contact can be powerful. For example, when you really want a person to pay attention to what you’re saying, you’ll most likely make eye contact with them while speaking to them. This not only helps you determine whether they are truly listening, but also help gauge their degree of understanding.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising to find that eye contact actually increases self-awareness.
Yet, while it may stand to reason that a person will feel more self-conscious whenever they know someone is looking at them, the effect actually works both ways. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that the effect goes beyond just self-awareness.
In 1989, a study was conducted showing that gazing into the eyes of someone of the opposite sex can significantly increase feelings of affection and passion, even if you don’t know that person. The effect of heightening arousal could perhaps be best described as an amplification of emotion, and certainly helps explain why making eye contact is such effective way of gaining someone’s full attention.
As social animals, humans have a natural tendency to mirror each other’s behaviors. This may include mimicking small hand gestures, body positions, expressions, and more. Even yawning! It is most often done subconsciously as an instinctive way of building rapport with someone. Studies have shown it can even promote empathy in others.
This effect can be best illustrated with smiling. You’ve likely heard the expression “smile, and the world smiles with you.” Perhaps you’ve even witnessed the effect yourself. When you smile, others will tend to mirror you.
The good news is that smiling can help lower stress levels and elevate a person’s mood. Even when you do it on purpose. So if you walk around with a smile on your face, you’re actually making the world a happier place.
Of course, body language is a language all its own, and there are a multitude of expressions we can make with it as we establish our own way of being. Still, the fact that our body language affects us in the same ways it does others bears powerful testament to how controlling our own way of being is able to change the world around us.