In this Laughology blog post, Juliette Yardley explores 'power posing' and how positive emotions can help change difficult situations.
I recently delivered training to a group of people who were stressed out. They were finding it hard to keep positive and to feel strong, motivated and resilient. It was a tough group and negative vibe in the room were very apparent. I had to pull out all the stops. I made some jokes and had some fun with them. The humour had the effect of getting the cogs turning and they realised that by thinking a little differently about situations, the world began to look very different.
I concentrated in communication and mind-set. We looked at how use of language frames our thought patterns. The ice started to melt as they set about considering and discussing positive words. After the short exercise I asked them to consider what had changed in the room. They realised there had been shift in atmosphere. There was laughter, creativity and cohesion. The atmosphere had lifted. Simply using positive language had enabled a positive shift to happen.
Next we looked at non-verbal communication, paying attention to what positive body language looked like. Amy Cuddy, a psychologist at Harvard University, has examined the science behind 'power posing'. It's an amazing piece of research that shows the positive hormonal shifts in our brains that occur if we stand tall and proud. So we all stood up and struck a pose whilst saying positive words out loud. The mood of the room lifted again and the negativity had well and truly thawed away.
Dr Martin Seligman, the founder of the positive psychology movement, wrote a book called 'Learnt Optimism'. The work was borne from of his initial outlook to think 'glass half empty'. As he researched he realised that his negative 'set point' (the place where his initial sets of behaviours were derived) was unhelpful and that a pessimistic mind set is a coping strategy derived from learnt helplessness - how we perceive negative events from out past. And the good news is that we can change learnt behaviours. We can switch from pessimism to optimism.
Optimistic people tend to experience less failure, they are able to see opportunities and have the confidence to take chances. They are resilient because when they experience failure, their coping mechanism allows them to rebound back. At the end of the day my group had really begun to question, reflect and realise that even in a stressful world, there are simple behaviours that they could use to make real change for themselves. Happy thinking, happy talk and power posing are some brilliant ingredients to create happier people.
Juliette has recently delivered the following Laughology sessions:
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