Act As If

Portrait of woman with Afro hairstyle wearing green sweater with mudra gesture hands up, closed eyes, meditating standing in yoga position. Indoor studio shot isolated on orange background.
image: iStock

One of the fastest ways to get stressed is to act as if you’re stressed.

Now, I’m assuming this isn’t your goal and I’m attempting to be light-hearted to make the point.

But let’s suppose you’re tired of being at peace and happy all the time and you want to feel just as stressed as the next person, well one of the fastest ways to achieve that goal is to move your body in a jerky fashion.

There’s a link between how we feel on the inside and how we express this on the outside. It’s why you smile and relax your body when you feel happy, and frown and tense your body when you feel stressed. You’re not remembering to move your face or body in those ways. It happens seemingly by itself due to this link.

But the link goes both ways. It’s bi-directional. Which means that what you do with your face and how you hold and move your body affects how you feel.

That’s what the link is. The inside and outside are in a sort of synchronisation. So whenever one changes, the other does too.

Change how you’re feeling, and your body follows you. This is why you smile when you’re happy or frown when you’re stressed or sad.

But the fact it goes both ways means that if you act as if you’re happy or stressed, the inside follows.

This is why moving your body in a jerky fashion – it usually works quite quickly, like a minute or two usually does it – can make you feel stressed. Now, of course, I am not suggesting you try this at home. I’m making light of things because I often find that people take positive things more seriously when we think it’s a negative thing first. Ah, psychology. 🙂

The nice thing here is that we can usually feel a bit better if we hold our bodies in a more upright posture.

For example, slouching tends to make people tired. Some will say they slouch because they’re tired. That may be true. But they’re also tired because they’re slouching. It’s bi-directional! This was shown in a nice piece of research a few years ago where one group of people in an office environment had their backs taped to the chair for 20 minutes to keep their posture upright.

Afterwards, they felt more alert and more positive than everyone else in the office who were slouching.

Tiredness or alertness aside, we can also impact our feelings of confidence or self-esteem by holding and moving our bodies in a more “I’ve got this!” way.

The key for long-term results is practice. Just like you don’t just do one rep at the gym if you want to get stronger or more physically fit, you do multiple reps, the same is true here. Regular practice – like every day – of adjusting how you’re sitting or standing can work magic.

Sitting upright or straightening your back just the once might not cut it. But if you practice it every day, who knows what you might achieve!

A read heart against a pink background. The red heart has different coloured flecks, like hairs, coming off it. Inside the heart is the words, 'I Heart Me School'.


  1. Michelle Vendelin on June 10, 2024 at 4:12 pm

    Thank you what a wonderful reminder of the abundant ways we can work with our body/mind vs being a slave to what ever emotion that lands in it at any moment. It’s why watching a RomCom or Comedy can put us in a better mood. And when we are in a better mood we can be more creative and solve problems. Great blog, thank you

  2. Cindy Symington on June 10, 2024 at 4:24 pm

    So simple – and yet so hard. Thanks for this tip. I appreciate you and your work so very much.

  3. Ione Grover on June 10, 2024 at 5:01 pm

    I resonate with what you are saying. I have been bent over because of a degenerating disc disease. I have gone to a physiotherapist who has encouraged me to walk with my back straight and has been doing decompression therapy with me. I am almost 92:and I have started walking with a straight back for the first time in years. I feel more confident as a result. I am also smiling more. Thank you for your encouragement backed by science,

  4. Sarah Stewart on June 10, 2024 at 5:14 pm

    A fantastic timely reminder, thanks for sharing.

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