Positivity Plan Point 8 – Fake it till you feel it

[Recorded on 30/11/20 – Read the transcript below]

Hi there. I’m Dr. Courtney Raspin from Altum Health, and every week at this time I take a few minutes and do a bit of a deep dive into this week’s point on the Altum Viral Positivity Plan. Oh, we’ve got people joining us right away. Hello. Hi there. I’m just going to say some waves. Whoops. Hello. I know who that is. Hello, Sean. Hi, Vicky. Thanks for joining us tonight. So for those of you who are joining us for the very first time, we created this plan to kind of help get us through the darker nights of lockdown and the pandemic. We know that levels of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, they’ve all gone up during this period. So it’s more important than ever that we focused on our mental health, and this plan does just that. Yeah, every week we provide some simple, effective tools and techniques, grounded in psychological science, to help bolster your mood, and we all need that right now.

Now, last week we talked about taking care of yourself. Oh, we’ve got lots of people joining us here. Hello. Hello, everybody. Hello, Debs. Ah, thanks for your support, guys. Hello, Pip. Hello, Charlotte. Fantastic. Thank you for joining me tonight. I was just saying that last week we talked about taking care of ourselves, how important it was when we’re running around taking care of everybody else that we take some time out for ourselves and how this is really more difficult to do in practice than it is in theory. And I suggested a bunch of very traditional ways of taking care of ourselves, but I also mentioned some things that you might not have tried before. Creating the Calm Box, yeah, that was one way. I did a little video creating a Calm Box, something you can go to when you need to just… I also talked about sucking things out of a straw to reduce the sympathetic arousal in the nervous system and crunching on something crunchy to relieve jaw tension.

Now, what I did last week to relax, I’m just going to share this briefly, is I cooked. I love to cook. Those of you who know me well know that it’s very relaxing for me to get in the kitchen. It’s very meditative. Just turn everything off. It was Thanksgiving. I know it was Thursday, but here in the UK nobody gets Thursday off. So I did it on the Saturday, and I did some cooking. I want to show you, if I can do this, what I made because it was so, so good. Look at this. Look at that. That is a caramel apple trifle. DM me if you want this recipe because it is definitely worth it. Yeah. Now, how do I get out of here? There we go. Really, really good. It helped me relax not only making it, but eating it. Very relaxing.

I’m wondering, what did you guys do to relax? I want to hear. What do you do to take time for yourselves? Please put it in the comments and let me know. If you have any questions about how you can carve out time for yourself, just let me know and I’ll be happy to help you. Now, this week, week eight, is probably my favorite week. It’s my favorite week because I get to use my Wonder Woman wallet, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Okay? Just remember, this is very important for this week. If you don’t have one, it’s okay, you can still do this week, but I’m telling you, it helps. It helps to have a Wonder Woman wallet.

Now, this week is called Faking It Till You Feel It. Fake It Till You Feel It. Now, it’s a bit of a strange title, but you will understand what I mean by the time we’re through with tonight. I think that Carrie Fisher, a quote by her kind of sums up what tonight’s about. She said this, and I think it’s wonderful, it’s something that we should tell all of our friends, it’s something we should tell our daughters and our sons, and she said, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident, just do it, and eventually the confidence will follow.” Now, Carrie lived this and she experienced it as she lived it, but what we’ve come to know is that it’s 100% true and is backed by a huge amount of research.

Tonight I’m going to tell you about a super cool study by a woman called Dr. Amy Cuddy, who’s a social psychologist, on something she calls Power Poses. I’ve added a link to her brilliant TED talk in my bio. So if you want to go have a look at that, please do, it’s really, really good, because I might not do it justice, but I’m going to try. What she did through this really clever research, she talked about how actually changing your body posture, just the way you hold your body in space, not only changes your thoughts and your feelings but actually your body chemistry too, like your hormones actually shift if you just hold your body differently and that is super cool.

As a psychologist, this makes perfect sense to me. I think it’s really important because we have spent so much time as therapists being taught to challenge thoughts. That if we challenge people’s thoughts, then we can change how they feel in themselves and change how they feel in their body, et cetera, et cetera. And that is great. You can go top down in that way. But what we’re learning over time through advances in neuroscience and social psychology is that we should be focusing as much, if not more, on the body, changing the body as a vehicle to actually improve your mood. So our bodies change our minds. We’re so used to hearing that our minds change our bodies, but our bodies change our minds, our thoughts, feelings, and body chemistry. Yeah. So we can improve our mental health simply by changing our body posture.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about this study now. So what she did is she took a group of people into the lab, okay? One big group of people, and had them spit. And she looked at two hormones, okay? She looked at testosterone, which is really our dominance hormone, and she looked at cortisol, which is our stress hormone. Now, people that are confident, truly confident, effective leaders, they’ve got higher levels of testosterone, lower level levels of cortisol. Because not only do you want somebody who’s powerful, but you want somebody who’s calm under pressure. Yeah. Those are the people who you want leading you. Those are the people that gravitate towards positions of power when that power political thing actually works, which I guess in the past few years it hasn’t, but that’s a whole other story.

The leaders we want are powerful people who are calm and collected under pressure. High testosterone, low cortisol. What she did is she took this baseline measure of all of these people and then she divided them into two groups. She had some of them do what she calls high-power poses for two minutes and some of them do low-power poses for two minutes. Now, high-power poses are kind of open and relaxed. They communicate to others that you’re confident and that you’re effective. Yeah. Low-power poses are kind of closed and guarded and they communicate to others that you lack self-confidence, that you’re kind of looking to protect yourself from danger.

You can see when people come into my office, they’re often very closed like this, depressed, anxious people, protective stance is very, very closed. Now, the classic high-power pose is The Wonder Woman pose, yeah, and I’m going to show this to you now if I can get the classic Wonder Woman pose. There she is, hands on hips, standing tall, relaxed and open, looks like she can take on the world. Yeah. But there are other high-power poses as well and I’m going to show you some of those now. The Wonder Woman is there, The Victor. If you’ve noticed, anybody who runs across a finish line puts their arms up like that, and this is blind people as well. So she says in her TED talk is that even somebody who has never seen another person do this when they cross the finish line or win at something, they put their arms up like this and you can see it across the animal kingdom.

You’ve got The Villain, The Subway Guy and The CEO. These are The Power Poses. Now, low-power poses, I’ll show you some of those, kind of closed and guarded, yeah, communicating that you’re wanting to protect yourself from danger. So what she did, and I’ll just get myself back here, there we go, is she took these baseline levels of testosterone and cortisol. She divided the group into two. She had half of them do high-power poses for two minutes, half of them do low-power poses for two minutes. What she found after two minutes, she tested their spit again… let me make sure I get this right, okay? … the people who did the high-power poses, their testosterone increased by 20% and their cortisol went down by 25%. Okay? That’s huge. The low-power pose people, yeah, they had a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in the stress hormone cortisol.

Two minutes, guys. Two minutes to change your hormones. Two minutes to configure your brain to be assertive, confident and comfortable, or to be stress reactive and shut down. Our bodies really do change our minds, all right? Now, I hear a lot of people say, “Well, it just feels very fake to do.” That’s the whole point though. At first it will. Amy Cuddy talks about faking it till you become it. Because when we get into these cycles of anxiety and depression, they’re vicious cycles. We begin to stay like this for a long time. We begin to feel very self-conscious. It changes our thoughts. The mind’s feeding to the body, the body’s feeding to the mind. It’s a vicious cycle and what we want to get into is a virtuous cycle.

Not only can we challenge our thinking in therapy, but why not change the body as well? Because, the body’s going to be feeding back to the brain. Other people will perceive you differently. It will really reinforce that virtuous cycle. So presence is very important for improving your mood. Now, how can we help you to institute this? Okay, what I want you to do is ideally every day for two minutes, but specifically before a stressful situation, I want you to kind of rate how nervous you are, rate how you’re feeling in yourself. Then I want you to assume a power pose. Yeah. Assume your power pose. I’m going to get my wallet because my wallet makes me feel good. Yeah. Assume your power pose for two minutes.

Now, I can feel silly doing it in front of you, but you guys who know me, I don’t mind being silly. But for those of you perhaps a little bit more self-conscious, which is most people, and that’s fine, you can do this alone, so it’s fine. Nobody’s going to see you. You could just do this in front of the mirror. Even if you don’t have the wallet, it works. It works better with the wallet. Just stand like this, in one of those poses, and then re-rate how you feel afterwards. Yeah. Re-rate how you feel afterwards. There is nothing to lose here, guys. Nothing to lose here at all. All right. Little tiny tweaks can lead to really big changes. Two minutes before any situation, configure your brain, get that testosterone up and that cortisol level down.

Now, I would love to see you in your Power Poses this week. So if you could take a picture for me and send it to me, it would be amazing. Or just let me know if you’ve tried it and how it felt to do. But just keep in mind that changing the body can change the brain. It’s not only changing the mind that can change the body. Try those open, relaxed poses. Google, “The Power Poses.” Watch Amy Cuddy’s talk. If you do post any of these online or you do have any comments, make sure to use the hashtag positivity plan, right? Just let me know. I’d love to see it. If you have any questions or concerns along the way, I am here to answer them and address them. And good luck, enjoy your Power Poses. That is all from me tonight and I will see you next week for week nine of our plan. I can’t believe we’re almost done. Take care, you guys. Bye.


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