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Helping Children Develop Tools for Positive Attitudes

This is part of our series of articles on how to raise happy, confident and successful children

What else can we do to help our children develop positive attitudes for life? We can teach them tools that will help them recognise that they are in control of how they feel.

Using Physiology to Change How we Feel

More and more research supports that we can become what we pretend to be. For instance, simply changing our facial expressions (even if we don’t feel the emotions) can alter how we feel.

Emotion usually leads to an expression, but studies have shown that the process can also work in reverse: If you force your face to look sad or angry, the rest of your body will react as well, and you may involuntarily begin to feel those emotions. A look of anger will make your heart speed up and your blood vessels dilate until your skin turns red; a look of fear can make your hands cold and clammy and your hairs stand on end; a look of disgust can make you nauseated. – Discovery Magazine

This occurs even when we are unconscious of the expressions we make…

The CIA researchers in a further experiment had one group of subjects listen to recordings of top comedians and look at a series of cartoons while holding a pen pressed between their lips that makes it impossible to smile. Another group held a pen between their teeth which had the opposite effect and made them smile.

The people with the pen between their teeth rated the comedians and cartoons much funnier than the other group. What’s more, neither group of subjects knew they were making expressions of emotion. Amazingly, an expression you do not even know you have can create an emotion you did not choose to feel. Emotion doesn’t just go from the inside out. It goes from the outside in. – Psychology Today

Similarly, changing our body language can also affect how we feel. When we alter our posture for 2 minutes and adopt a “power pose” – standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident – we can change our body chemistry and how we feel.

The high-power posers showed a nearly 20 percent increase in testosterone (the dominance hormone) and a 25 percent decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone). The low-power posers saw a 10 percent decline in testosterone and a 17 percent increase in cortisol.

Cuddy says, “These two-minute changes (in body stance) lead to hormonal changes that can configure your brain to be either assertive, confident and comfortable, or really stress reactive and feeling shut down.” – Huffington Post

Even the way we walk can affect how we feel – no wonder G2 is always in such a good mood – he’s always bouncing along when he walks.

It’s well-known that when we’re in a good mood, our style of walking tends to reflect how we feel: we bounce along, shoulders back, swinging our arms in style. Now, a new study finds that it also works the other way around: people who imitate a happy style of walking, even without realising it, find themselves feeling happier. – Michalak et al., 2015

If we can teach our children to use physiology to alter the way they feel, we will have given them a powerful tool for life.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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