In training my new dog Hope, I remembered a technique used by Cesar Millan. He says that changing the position of the dog’s tail can help reduce fears. If a dog has her tail held between her legs, it signals, of course, that she is afraid. By lifting her tail into a more relaxed and confident position, the dog learns to associate the present experience with calm energy, not fear.
So when I had to give Hope a bath, I saw that her tail was down between her legs and she was cowering and tense. So I put my hand under her tail and patiently stroked it upward until it was in a position that signaled relaxed confidence. When I brought the hose toward her, she again lowered her tail, and I repeated the stroking and lifting move.
I can’t say that she was immediately relaxed around the hose and water, but for a few minutes she got a lesson in getting body feedback.
And this lesson works for humans, as well. Many research studies have confirmed that our facial expressions and how we hold our bodies send signals to our brain and emotions about how to feel. A classic study is amusing to visualize. Researchers had participants bite down on a pencil held crossways in their mouths so that it forced the corners of their lips up into a smile. (Try it!) The study found that just this very simple action actually made people feel happier.
We tend to think emotions come from our brain and that’s it. But it is more complicated than that. Our minds, emotions and bodies are interconnected and feed each other information constantly. Emotions are actually physical or somatic sensations or signals. But how we hold our bodies can actually influence how we perceive our experience in a certain situation.
Many clients come to therapy slouching, frowning and sighing, signaling their depressed feelings in their posture and facial expressions. But these behaviors can also make a person feel more depressed.
It may seem simplistic, but choosing to stand, act and look a certain way can help improve mood.
A Pack Leader signals confidence, assertiveness, positive attitude, calm demeanor and competence with her physical behaviors and presence. Direct eye contact is also key in conveying a pack leader personality.
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