How to use your body to improve your performance

We all know that body language reveals a lot about people’s thoughts. That’s why we try to manage our own body language so it sends the signals we want, and observe the body language of others for the clues it can give us.

Your body can also help or hinder your performance. For example, you may have read that adopting a powerful stance makes you feel and act more authoritative, confident and, yes, powerful. That’s why an erect posture and holding your head high is important when you’re in a meeting, making a presentation, or chatting with your manager, staff or colleagues. Add to that a few calming breaths to oxygenate your brain to clarify your thinking and you’ll be a star!

For an extra confidence boost, pop into the loo or the stationery cupboard and stand like Super Woman for a few minutes. It works because of the mind–behaviour–results loop that I’ve written about before.

Smiling is another way your mind obeys your body and brings better results. When you smile, you feel happier and more positive; when you frown, you feel gloomier and more negative. And so do those around you.

Crossed arms usually makes you look stubborn and uncooperative, but crossing your arms deliberately can boost your willpower and help you stick with tough tasks and perform them better. Here’s one experiment that explains why.

Tensing your muscles improves your willpower, too, and helps you bear pain, undertake unpleasant tasks, and overcome your aversion to hearing information you don’t want to (but need to) hear, according to this series of studies.

Gestures are important, too, for lots of reasons beyond leaking nervousness (self-grooming and too much or wild gesturing) and making and emphasising points you want to be remembered and believed (emphatic gestures). Gestures can make what you’re saying more understandable and persuasive when they match your message. And gesturing can even help you think and remember, as another study shows.

Mirroring other people’s gestures helps you empathise with them and understand where they’re coming from more easily. And of course, it shows you’re paying attention and builds bridges, making the whole communication process work more fluently.

There has been a lot in the media recently about how a rested body helps you think clearly and concentrate and even aids weight loss. Just lying down can kick in your creativity and help you solve problems, too. See my earlier post about daydreaming, for example.

So there you have it. The connection between your mind and body and the results you get is a strong one, and one that you can make even stronger with a little bit of fine tuning.