If you’re feeling low, anxious or weighed down with worry, doing something as simple as moving your body can help turn things around. Try these body-positive moves
Fake it till you feel it
According to the facial feedback hypothesis, making certain facial expressions can influence our emotions. So if you force yourself to smile when you’re feeling down, it could actually make you feel happy.
Ingrid Fetell Lee, author of Joyful, a book about how ordinary things can create happiness, says: ‘Try chanting a mantra with “smile vowels”, such as the long “e” sound, which curves your lips upward, and has been shown to trigger positive facial feedback in studies.
‘And if you tend to frown while working at your computer, put a pencil between your teeth so that it curves your lips into a smile.’
Jump for joy
Ingrid says: ‘The photographer Philippe Halsman took photos of everyone who was anyone, from Marilyn Monroe to Audrey Hepburn — and he always made them jump.
‘He believed that jumping helped people drop their masks and release the joy inside. Try it — it’s nearly impossible to stay grumpy when you’re leaping through the air!
‘This is because jumping expands our body posture, lifting our head and opening up the chest. In the same way that our brains take note of facial expressions, our bodies take cues from our posture.
‘An open, expansive, exuberant body cues joy. Jump on the bed, bounce on a trampoline or do jumping jacks.’
‘This one seems so simple, but it works — simply look up!’ says Ingrid. ‘When you lift your gaze, it opens up your posture and allows more light into your eyes — two things that can help to improve your mood.
‘A bonus? Looking up increases the chance you’ll see something joyful, like a bird, a butterfly, or a whimsical shape in the clouds.’
And if you’re indoors, try positioning a hanging plant in a part of your home you use frequently to help raise your gaze.
Stand like a starfish
Need a confidence boost? Stand tall, hands on your hips, legs astride and chest forward. Just two minutes in this power pose can increase levels of testosterone in both men and women by 20 per cent, according to Harvard University researchers.
High levels of testosterone lead to increased feelings of self-assurance. The pose also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol by 25 per cent.
Do a happy walk
You can kick a gloomy mood to the kerb by imitating a happy way of walking, says a study published in the Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.
In the study, people were prompted to walk on a treadmill either with their heads down and shoulders rounded or with their arms swinging, head upright and a bouncy gait.
Results showed that the first style of walking created a more depressed mood in the participants while the second generated more positive feelings.
Researchers concluded that, even if you only mimic a happy style of walking, you’ll end up feeling cheerier.
‘It sounds counter-intuitive, but feeling small can actually be soothing,’ says Ingrid. ‘Research on the emotion of awe has found that when we’re in the presence of something vast and beautiful, it can trigger a feeling called the “small self”, which helps put our problems into perspective and raises our sense of connectedness to other people and to the universe.
‘All of this helps shift your thoughts to more positivity. To feel more awe, try looking at the stars, tall trees or a beautiful building, such as a cathedral.’
Nod your head
If you’re doubting yourself, just nod your head and you should get back some self-confidence.
A psychology study at Ohio State University found that when we nod our heads up and down, we gain confidence in what we’re thinking. But when we shake our heads from side to side, we lose confidence in our own thoughts. So next time you tell yourself: ‘I can do this’ — nod!
Edited by Kim Jones