Actually, I hesitate to call my parrotlet a pet. He’s more like a little bird friend — a tiny little feathered dinosaur who talks.
He’s a comical little guy: he knows how to play peek-a-boo, he loves shredding tissues, and he’s learned to imitate my laughter with near-perfect pitch.
But when he gets angry — when he doesn’t want to be touched or bothered, for example — you know it.
And how do you know it? Well, he fans out his tail feathers if I try to touch him. He also fluffs up the feathers on his back.
This birdie non-verbal language lets me know my little featherbutt doesn’t want to play. The feather fanning and fluffing makes his pint-sized, hollow-boned bird body look bigger and stronger, as if to say, “Hey! I’m big and powerful, mom! Go away. We play by my rules because I’m the boss around here.”
FLUFFING UP: IT’S NOT JUST FOR THE BIRDS
I don’t think it’s any secret that adopting a “power posture” (say, standing with your hands on your hips or reclining on a chair with your arms behind your head) can communicate a nonverbal message to someone else.
Using a power posture tells others that you’re the boss. You’re in charge. You’re the alpha.
But can these confident postures tell yourself anything? Can they tell yourself that you’re in charge and in control?
Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, delivered an inspiring TED talk based on those very questions. You might be surprised about what just two minutes of “power posing” can do to both your testosterone level and your cortisol level:
USING YOUR BODY TO CALM YOUR BODY
So, why does this matter? Why am I posting about this on a blog about panic and anxiety?
As Cuddy mentioned, it’s a stress hormone — and a powerful one. Learning to manipulate it via power posing might have important implications for us chronic anxiety sufferers. (I mean, think about it — when you get anxious, what do you do? Curl up into a ball or stand tall with your hands up?)
But more broadly speaking, the crux of her message is this: our bodies can indeed change our minds, and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can go on to change our life’s outcomes.
That’s a pretty uplifting thought with which to welcome the weekend, eh?
And I’ll be pondering that koan-like thesis here at my desk — with my feet kicked up and my arms behind my head.
(If the embedded video will not play for you, the entire talk can be accessed via this link: Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are.)