Here are some quick and effective exercises that use actions to transform how you think and behave.
As Laird’s study demonstrated, smile and you will feel happier. To get the most out of this exercise, make the smile as wide as possible, extend your eyebrow muscles slightly upward, and hold the resulting expression for about 20 seconds.
WILLPOWER: Tense up
As Hung’s experiments show, tensing your muscles boosts your willpower. Next time you feel the need to avoid that cigarette or cream cake, make a fist, contract your biceps, press your thumb and first finger together, or grip a pen in your hand.
DIETING: Use your non-dominant hand
When you eat with your non-dominate hand you are acting as if you are carrying out an unusual behaviour. Because of that you place more attention on your action, do not simply consume food without thinking about it, and so eat less.
PROCRASTINATION: Make a start
To overcome procrastination, act as if you are interested in what it is that you have to do. Spend just a few minutes carrying out the first part of whatever it is you are avoiding, and suddenly you will feel a strong need to complete the task.
PERSISTENCE: Sit up straight and cross your arms
Ron Friedman from the University of Rochester led a study where volunteers were presented with sticky problems to see how long they persevered. Those who sat up straight and folded their arms struggled on for nearly twice as long as others. Make sure your computer monitor is slightly above your eye-line and, when the going gets tough, cross your arms.
CONFIDENCE: Power pose
To increase your self-esteem and confidence, adopt a power pose. If you are sitting down, lean back, look up and interlock your hands behind your head. If you are standing up, then place your feet flat on the floor, push your shoulders back and your chest forward.
NEGOTIATION: Use soft chairs
Hard furniture is associated with hard behaviour. In one study Joshua Ackerman at the MIT Sloan School of Management had participants sit on either soft or hard chairs and then negotiate over the price of a used car. Those in the hard chairs offered less and were more inflexible.
GUILT: Wash away your sins
If you are feeling guilty about something, try washing your hands or taking a shower. Chen-Bo Zhong from the University of Toronto discovered that people who carried out an immoral act and then cleaned their handswith an antiseptic wipe felt significantly less guilty than others.
If people nod while they listen to a discussion they are more likely to agree with the points being made. When you want to encourage someone to agree with you, subtly nod your head as you chat with them. Research led by Gary Wells of Iowa State University shows that they will reciprocate the movement and find themselves strangely attracted to your way of thinking.
Thanks to Richard Wiseman