How to Be Confident and Reduce Stress in 2 Minutes Per Day

There is a simple strategy that you can use to reduce anxiety, improve your ability to deal with stress, and boost your confidence.

The best part? It works immediately and only takes two minutes to do.

Here’s the deal…

Your Hormones and Your Confidence

Recent research coming out of Harvard University, The University of Oregon, The University of Texas and many other places is revealing that powerful and effective leaders not only share similar mindsets, but also similar hormone levels. More specifically, powerful leaders tend to have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol.

Higher levels of testosterone (in both men and women) lead to increased feelings of confidence. Meanwhile, lower levels of cortisol lead to decreased anxiety and an improved ability to deal with stress.

Here’s what that means: if you enjoy these hormone levels, then you are biologically primed to be more assertive, confident, and relaxed. At the same time, you will be less reactive to stress and more likely to handle pressure situations well. In other words, the correct hormone levels can make you feel more confident and less stressed.

Sounds good, right?

What is particularly important about testosterone and coritsol is that your levels of each hormone can change rapidly depending on the social, physical, and environmental cues that surround you.

What does this have to do with feeling more confident?

Well, it turns out that one of the physical cues that impacts these two hormones is body language. And if you understand how to improve your body language, then you can increase your testosterone, decrease your cortisol, and “magically” feel more confident and risk tolerant.

Let’s talk about the link between body language and confidence…

Body Language: The “Power Poses”

Amy Cuddy is a researcher at Harvard University who studies body language and the impact it has on your hormones.

Cuddy and her team have classified different body positions as “high power” or “low power” poses. In general, the high power poses are open and relaxed while the low power poses are closed and guarded.

Below is an image showing the different types of power poses.

body language
High Power body language is open and relaxed. Low Power body language is closed and guarded.

Cuddy and her research team studied the impact of high power and low power poses by conducting a research study on 42 students. (Original article available here.)

Here’s how the study went down…

  • First, a saliva sample was taken from each subject and their testosterone and cortisol levels were measured.
  • Second, the subject was asked to sit in either a high power pose or a low power pose for two minutes.
  • Third, a second sample of saliva was taken from each subject and their testosterone and cortisol levels were measured again.

When the researchers looked at the results, they were stunned by the impact that body language had on the hormones within the body. High power poses increased testosterone by 20 percent and decreased cortisol levels by 25 percent.

Here’s a graph showing the results…

body language
High power poses increased testosterone levels by 20% (which boosts confidence) while simultaneously decreasing cortisol levels by 25% (which reduces anxiety).

This brings us to the most important question…

How can you make this actionable in your life?

Stand Like This for 2 Minutes Per Day

body language
From Left to Right: Lynda Carter poses as Wonder Woman (Image courtesy of ABC TV and Amazon Archives). Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF stands in a high power pose (Image courtesy of Amy Cuddy). Beyonce strikes a high power pose during a performance (Image courtesy of Getty Images).

The most well–known and versatile high power pose is nicknamed “The Wonder Woman” pose. You simple stand tall with your chest out and your hands on your hips. The images above show powerful women like Christine Lagarde and Beyonce in classic “Wonder Woman” pose.

Just to be clear: despite the nickname and the photos, the impact of these poses is just as relevant to men as it is to women.

Making This Work in Real Life

If you’re aware of it, body language is easy to adjust throughout your day.

But if you’re anything like me, you’ll get busy with other tasks and completely forget to check your body language. Because of this, I’ve found it most useful to insert a high power pose into my morning routine for 2 or 3 minutes and then move on with the rest of my life.

Here’s a pattern that I have been playing with recently…

Each morning, I’ll wake up and stand in a high power pose for two minutes. While I’m doing that, I’ll close my eyes, breathe in deeply for a count of 3, hold for 1, and then breathe out fully for a count of 5. In this way, I combine breathing exercises, meditation, and power poses for a relaxing and confidence–boosting start to the day.

Plus, it only takes 120 seconds. It’s kind of hard to say you don’t have time for it.

For more ideas on how to improve your morning routine, read this: 8 Ways to Improve Your Morning Routine

What You Should Do Now

It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.
—Millard Fuller, Founder of Habitat for Humanity

Just to be clear: I don’t believe that body language is the end–all, be–all of becoming more confident.

That said, it is pretty clear that confidence is a two–way street that involves both your mind and body. Sure, your personality and your emotional state will impact your confidence levels, but it’s obvious that assuming better body language, taking up space, and expanding your physical presence can play an important role as well.

Most importantly, you now have another tool in your toolbox to use whenever you need it.

If you’re feeling stressed a few minutes before your next presentation, interview, or meeting — take a moment to adjust your posture and stand in a powerful position. Put your hands on your hips, keep your chin up, and your chest out. Doing this for just two minutes will raise your testosterone and increase your confidence, while also decreasing your cortisol and improving your ability to handle stress.

Your behaviors and emotions are firmly tied. The most powerful leaders don’t merely think a certain way, they carry themselves a certain way. You should do the same.

Watch Amy Cuddy’s 20–Minute TED Talk

Want more? You can watch Amy Cuddy talk about her research and the impact of body language in her 20–minute TED Talk. It’s well worth the time.

22 Comments

  1. This made me think of all the actors on the silver screen who’ve played the role of a super hero like Superman or Wonder Woman. Great confidence boosting for sure.

    It makes me think of something C.S. Lewis said about acting; “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

    • Yup, practice makes perfect! And isn’t love the most powerful force in the Universe? Caring for (loving) ourselves to the point of knowing we are capable of using the true power within us is the key to being able to share who and how we are.

      Joan

  2. James,

    Great article. I am new to your Superhumans, but liking it very much.

    Amy,

    Amazing studies, science, stories and presentation!

    Please, keep “becoming” it and helping us to do the same.

    Thank you. Cheers!

  3. I came to think about how much these “high-power” postures are the same as the postures in which you can breathe properly, and “low power” postures are the ones in which you can’t. Do you think there is a link between breathing correctly and the hormones level, or it is just another benefit of these postures?

  4. When I teach public speaking this is one of the first things I tell people. The way you stand and present yourself to the audience has a huge impact on how well you do. It’s great to see otherwise timid people turn much more confident in themselves just by standing a little differently.

  5. Who would have thought posture would affect our mood so much? Just a small conscious adjustment can help us at any time. I am always amazed how much we have the power to change from negativity to positivity — although it takes a lot of arduous work to do so — change IS within ourselves. It is a process of habit and self-monitoring. It is not an easy undertaking. Maybe thats why so many people don’t do it and seek outside themselves for quick fixes and cures.

    Thank you for yet another powerful, yet simple, nudge, James.

  6. Hello James — I just want to thank you so much for these posts. My life has been changed since I read one of your posts two weeks ago. Your posts inspired and motivated me so much.

  7. Great article man and a very interesting study…How do you come up with this topics? I really like the diversity on your writting, even tough staying in the same general area.

    And regarding the poses, even tough i knew that poses affected the image you send to others i didn’t know it had that much of an impact INSIDE our bodies. Great information and if applyied correctly, very useful.

  8. Thanks James!

    So, I’ve seen a few TED talks. Is it some kind of unwritten rule/goal of the TED talk that the speaker has to have a near tears moment while recounting a past experience?

    • Hi elizabethe,

      Not necessary, and I imagine not at all a goal; but a great speaker is often motivated to share the deepest vulnerabilities within them to help make profound changes in themselves and others. That is usually their goal, to make a difference in people’s attitudes and feelings because there has been a change in their own.

      When I participate in poetry presentations and I read my poetry or I hear the sincerest offerings of others in reading theirs, I don’t set out to cry or get “choked-up”, but I find that what is being expressed is beyond the mundane. It touches me/us in profound ways.

      The stances we take in life, standing or sitting, as the pictures James has shared reveal what we are feeling, really the heart of us. Are we broken and dejected or confident and hopeful? So too, our words spoken or written can deflate and cripple us or uplift and sustain us. Each are powerful in their specific ways to influence us and allow us to see our inner state of being.

      Ultimately, there is no separation between the mind and body, or even for that matter, the driving force of who we are. We are open books, the question is, are we taking the time to read us?

      Joan

      • Also thank you Joan for clarifying the comment by Elizabethe. I am so gratified not only by the content but that these people are passionate about sharing their research ideas etc. To stand there and be “vulnerable” to an audience and millions more via the super highway.

        You get it. I so do appreciate the eloquence of your insight.

        Thx

        • Thank you for sharing the beginning of your day with us, Eniale, and for your kind words!

          I know what you mean. When we take the time to check in and protect the preciousness of our day, not so much from others as in the keeping who we are in tact, it’s a ritual worth maintaining.

          Breath work is essential, even as simple as three determined and observed breaths. The consciously done inhalation and exhalation can set our tone for the day.

          I was a breath work facilitator for Denis Ouellette’s Integral Breathwork, TM. We taught many short and sweet little exercises to optimize your health and sense of well being.

          Joan

  9. Thank you James. I have watched her on TED, I’ma regular. I also as you suggested do it first thing upon waking. I sit up in bed, however, and watch my breath, create an energy field with the palms of my hands and surround myself with the light as an all day protective field. Then I make affirmation I’ve personally want to make shifts within. Nothing long and tedious. I say one as I’m counting down from ten into a hypnotic state..Remaining there for as long as I am comfortable with it, I do not force but do want to expand the time, naturally. Then I count from five to awaken from the self-hypnosis. Stretch and go about my day. I will afterwards stand for two minutes because standing is a way we engage and I have a tendency to invert at the chest area.

    I feel ready for the day all day, and also repeat aspects of the morning as I think of it, especially breathing, we forget to breath, and self talk again something I want to reinforce. Anxiety is something I’m working on. From “Daring Greatly” by Brenee Brown.

    Perhaps my meditation will help someone to formulate their own.

    Thank you for allowing me to share.

  10. Amy Cuddy’s TED talk is one of my favourites.

    I’ve incorporated the power pose into my morning ritual… but hope my wife and daughter never see me in the Wonder Woman costume ;)

  11. I am generally confident, and I know I stand in power poses
    much of the time. I am curious about a few things: 1. The first and
    second poses in the top row of power poses usually “irk” me when I
    first encounter someone in that pose. They seem fake, as if someone
    is trying to communicate their power although they deep down don’t
    actually have any. 2. When I am actively listening to someone,
    especially if my response requires a lot of empathy, openness, and
    compassion for whatever the person is talking about, I find myself,
    many times, in a pose quite similar to the first one on the bottom
    row. I don’t consciously do it; I just realize I am standing like
    that. I feel like it is disarming me so that others can feel that
    they can speak freely to someone who doesn’t see themselves as
    “higher” than they are. I find that, generally speaking, people are
    quite open with me, and many times I am standing in a pose like
    that. (Perhaps without my arms crossed though?) Would either of
    those thoughts jive with the research? What do you all think about
    both points? I’m seeking to understand what it my reactions mean.
    -Andrea

  12. Missed the part where cortisol helps you release energy quickly. And the part where elevated testosterone levels are linked to shorter lifespans. It’s all still about balance.

    • Great points, Josh. I’m a big fan of balance, so I’m glad you brought this into the discussion. I’ll have to do some more writing and research on that.

      Thanks for reading!

  13. I recently fractured my spine and have been hauled up in a brace which I am now weaning from. In my first few weeks I was more active (travel without a back pack), felt a lot better. In my next set of weeks I found myself in more passive positions, I was more negative. This seems to tie in with your presentation.