Your posture in stillness and motion communicates to you and others all the time. The way you hold yourself is conveying to you how you feel and what is going on inside your body mentally, emotionally and physically. Your state of mind influences how you hold and use your body. Therefore, the body is a mirror to the mind.
A Mirror to the Mind
How does your body feel when your mind is focused? Perhaps it feels energised, calm, efficient, powerful, fluid, at ease or fast. Think of a word, group of words or phrases that describe the sensation. How does your body feels when your mind is distracted or confused by comparison? May be it feels agitated, uncomfortable, irritable, tense, unsettled or sluggish? Again, please think of appropriate words or phrases. Hopefully, this makes it clear that the mood of the mind affects the way the body feels and by extension the way it holds itself and moves.
Be careful to ensure you notice how your body feels, not how your mind is thinking when doing this exercise. Thought and feeling are very different. One comes from the mind the other from the body. It is a question of where you place your attention. Most people place their attention on the mind. This has its place. It is also of benefit to pay attention to what the body expresses- it is much more receptive to what is happening in the moment.
The Hips Don’t Lie
When I teach martial arts, I can tell whether someone is focused or distracted simply by the way they move. As you get to know someone you are able to discern how that person is feeling simply by looking at their body. When someone moves slower than normal or seems to look less vital than usual, it might illicit a question from you asking if they are OK? If their lips are pinched or their brow furrowed you might ask if they are worried or agitated about something. This type of awareness is familiar to most of us. When someone does not recognise the signs that another person is upset and interacts with them without regard for their feelings, you might be surprised or incredulous at their apparent insensitivity. Perhaps instead it is simply a lack of awareness of these cues that might require some training and practice.
A Two- Way Mirror
This mirror between mind and body is actually two- way. The actions of the body can be used to affect the mind. We know how much better we feel in our mind after some light exercise. Just the way you hold yourself can affect your mood. Research with MBA students showed that interviewees performed better when they sat straight (perhaps having a conversation with another person or doing some mindfulness activity) or moved around (standing, walking or using “power poses”) before the interview compared to sitting slouched (such as looking at their mobile phone or “weak poses”).
Martial arts students always say they feel more focused, confident and positive after the session, even one that is not very physical, just for some light movement and holding themselves in a more upright and confident way. This is not unique to martial arts. This is something we feel after a walk in the country or taking the dog out, a trip to the gym or a swim in a lake. It is the feedback the body is sending the brain that makes the mind feel more calm, focused, revitalised and confident.
Ways in which the body affects the mind
It is with this knowledge that we can use the body to purposefully affect the mind so that we have a mindset of focus, confidence and relaxation. Here are some ideas:
Physical activity relaxes and focuses the system of the body so that we can be more productive and creative personally and professionally.
Reduce artificial stimulation
When we feel tired and lethargic we often reach for the high caffeine drinks and the high sugar and fat foods to get us through the day. This momentarily stimulates the body and mind but quickly leads to a crash. Being more organised about food through the day means you can take snacks that better fuel the body in a healthy way. For more information go here.
Mind and body do not want to be stimulated all day, every day. They need rest to recharge. When your body is telling you it is tired, please listen and schedule some R & R into your week. Rather than struggle on regardless, take some time as appropriate and rest up. Have you noticed how you get ill after a long bout of late nights and early mornings? Your body battles through for you but the lack of rest and continued stress lowers your immune system and you become unwell. Ignore this long term and it may become more severe.
Avoid continual stress
Short- term stress is an essential part of our lives and our bodies respond well to it. However, continued stress without much let up has all kinds of negative effects on mind and body, including inattention, health issues, lack of productivity and effectiveness etc.
Being aware of how you stand and hold your posture can have a huge affect on how you feel
Long hours spent still and slouched over a computer, TV, books and meals leave the muscles tight, the breathing shallow and the body generally operating below par. This often leads to feeling lethargic, being unmotivated and reducing productivity and engagement or unnatural stimulation. Regular movement and better posture throughout the day lead to more energy, greater motivation, productivity and engagement because the body and mind are more active as a consequence of this two- way mirror.
How the body controls the mind
It is to this final point that I would like to focus lastly. Use this two- way mirror to control your mood. A confident posture creates a confident mindset and so you are able to portray a confident demeanor. Exciting the body through fast movement excites the mind as well, conveying a vitality that is attractive and engaging. Sitting still with strong posture makes the mind calm, making you more receptive to what is going on around you.
What do you need to convey to make this meeting go well or get the results you want from an interaction? Do the people around you need you to be confident, a leader, a listener, a joker or a guide? What does a situation require of you? Once you know that, then you can use your body to help you achieve the correct mindset. Communicate this to yourself through your body and your mind will follow suit. Not only that, the people around you will also feel what you are trying to convey and that can be invaluable in the many roles you play in your life.
This is one of many tools I use with clients to help with confidence, awareness and relaxation. I also cover this and many more during my Moving Meditation Courses. Please e- mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about future courses. We can also discuss how we can work together to build your confidence from the inside out. Click here to find out about and book tickets for the next Moving Meditation Course running in June and July 2017.
Over to You
What do you notice about your breathing when you are relaxed and stressed? Do you find you experience shortness of breath? How do you control your mind and body when you’re in a stressful situation? I’d love to hear from you and learn about how you use your breath.
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