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Assume the Posture of Presence

Our posture not only shapes the way we feel, it shapes our ability to think

Illustration of dogs on red couch

Illustration Credit: Comfort by Matte Stephens

Jamini Kwon, a graduate student at Seoul National University, became interested in studying the body–mind connection after spending several months bedridden with trigeminal neuralgia, a rare medication-induced partial paralysis of the nerve that communicates sensation from your face to your brain. Damage to the facial nerve can cause excruciating pain, even in response to the mildest types of stimulation, such as brushing your teeth and applying makeup. “It hurt so much that I could barely drink water,” she said. “I lost almost thirty pounds.” She also noticed something fundamental: “When I stayed in the bed without moving, I felt tired and depressed all the time.” But slowly she reacquired some movement and began to very gingerly stand and do things. She returned to painting, a passion that she’d had to abandon. “I usually work on huge paintings, so standing up and expanding my arms was necessary.” That’s when she noticed something else: Expanding out of her contracted posture not only helped her recover physically, it also aided her psychologically. “For me, this ‘cognitive embodiment’ gave me a lif …

Dr. Cuddy is a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the new book Presence (Little, Brown & Company), from which this piece was adapted.

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