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Breathing Principles - Power Positions, Facial Feed-back, Priming and Grounding


At this point we’ve seen exactly how anxiety and stress work and how you can get on top of them by using meditation, CBT and even medications if you’re so inclined. The recommendation is to stay away from the latter and to instead focus on training your thoughts to ‘rise above’ the situation and feel calm even when the world around you seems to be falling apart. But you can improve your ability to do all this even further by using power positions, priming, facial feedback and grounding and these will each serve as powerful tools in your arsenal against anxiety and rushed decisions… Power Positions Power positions are one technique that anyone can use to boost their confidence and reduce anxiety and they’re perfect for using prior to interviews or even during dates (as long as you excuse yourself and head to the bath- room first). Essentially, studies show us that when we adopt certain positions it can impact on the release of hormones and neurotransmitters. And one of the most potent examples of this is the ‘victory position’ in which we hold our hands over our head in a ‘V’ shape as though we were crossing over a finish line. This is one of the few ‘universal’ examples of body language and it triggers a surge in testosterone while increasing confidence!

Facial Feedback

Similarly, a process called ‘facial feedback’ can also be used to affect the neurochemicals in our brain. This process triggers the release of hormones and neurotransmitters in accordance with our facial expressions.

In other words, you may smile when you’re happy, but you’re also happy when you smile! Simply the act of smiling is enough to trigger the release of serotonin and other happiness hormones, and this can be highly effective in improving our mood. One study showed that this works even if you force yourself to smile by holding a pencil in between your teeth.

So next time you feel stressed, and you notice your face contorting (which also causes tension headaches by the way), try overcoming it by just smiling gently!

Note as well that we also adopt the moods of others thanks to facial feed- back. When we see someone smile or frown, this causes us to mimic that expression unconsciously and in turn triggers the release of the same hormones and the same neurotransmitters. This is due to ‘Mirror neurons’ in the brain – the very brain cells that give us the ability to empathize with others.

What’s the take-away from this? Simple: surround yourself with positive happy people and try to avoid people who are going to make you more stressed during an anxious moment.


Priming means preparing yourself to be in a certain mood. This is some- thing that is often used in marketing and sales, and it basically means doing something you know will affect your mood in a certain way before you need to be in that mood.

So, in this case, it might mean doing something relaxing and calming (or something that gets you psyched up in a positive way) prior to a competition or an activity. You could do something similar before a workout by looking at images of your ideal physiques or watching videos of bodybuilders. Music is also great for priming yourself – and happy music can do a lot to improve your mood.

Oh, and note that exercise itself can also be a good form of grounding! When we exercise it triggers the release of testosterone, growth hormone and serotonin and can drastically improve our mood while making us feel more alert and more physically capable – all good before an interview or another challenge.


Finally, grounding is a technique you can use to bring yourself into the here and now and to create a sense of ‘safety’ by anchoring yourself to the ground, and the world around you. You can do this simply by planting your feet firmly on the ground and being consciously aware of them. Other people will use techniques that bring them into the present moment by tapping themselves on the shoulders or clapping or paying close attention to their surroundings. If you’re currently stuck in your own head and worrying, reminding yourself of your physical presence and doing something to cement your attachment to the world around you can be very useful as a way to feel less anxious.


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