Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling less than stellar, say, perhaps a little bit stressed or depressed about something, you tend to hunch down with shoulders rolled inward? This posture generally signifies that your body is in protection mode. But something you may not have noticed, is that even if you’re not experiencing stress, you may still be practicing bad posture, which can in fact change your mood in a negative way. In this article, we’ll take a look at how postures can affect your mood and vice versa.
Your Mother Was Right
Most of us remember as children, being admonished to sit up straight and mind our posture. It makes basic sense that good posture leads to better health, better physical conditioning, and better appearance.
However, what your mom may not have known about, is something called Embodied Cognition. Embodied Cognition is a form of communication between your mind and body, and works both to send signals form the body to the brain, and signals from the brain to the body. In simpler terms, how your body is positioned can directly impact your mood and vice versa.
Positive Benefits of Good Posture on Mood
When we practice good posture, there are a whole host of positive benefits that impact both our body and our mind.
Studies show that people who sit up straight with good posture have a lot more confidence than those who don’t. In people who tend to slouch for whatever reason, confidence seems to be low. These studies looked at what changes occurred in a person’s mood when they simply sat up straight and tall – increased confidence. Embodied Cognition can be paralleled with a simply study that put one person on a regular height chair, and one on a higher stool. The person on the stool felt taller and was able to see more of their surroundings, thereby giving them a feeling of confidence.
People who have low self-esteem can often tend to slouch with shoulders rolled inwards as a way of protecting themselves. In many cases, this is a self-esteem issue, as the person doesn’t feel confident enough to be ‘tall and proud’. Yet again, when they made this simple change, self-esteem began to improve.
One study took two groups of students, one group asked to sit up straight, and the other to slouch down in their seats. A series of questions were posed to each group about how they felt they were doing in their studies and future prospects for their careers. The students in the first group felt that they were excelling at school, and would eventually lead fulfilling careers in their chosen field. The second group, the ‘slouchers’, mainly felt they were only performing ‘adequately’, and were unsure of how things would go once they were finished school.
Awareness and Alertness
When a person is slouched down, they tend to not to be as aware and alert as those who practice good posture. Those who practice good posture tend to be more aware of their surroundings, more alert, and generally more involved in what is going on around them, which leads to a sense of belonging, vs. feeling somewhat ‘outside’ the fray.
We all know that stress is a killer. And while poor posture due to stress is common, studies show that making the simple change of sitting up straight and tall can reduce cortisol levels (cortisol is commonly referred to as ‘the stress hormone’, which will lead to reduced stress, and the person feeling much better in general.
In yet another study, results showed that those who suffered from poor posture had much lower energy levels than those who had good posture. When the body is in a prone position, other systems within the body can tend to slow down, including breathing, heart rate, and adrenalin levels. Conversely, when sitting upright and alert, the body and mind are running at much higher levels, leading to an increase in energy.
How to Improve Your Posture and Your Mood
Now that we’ve learned how posture can impact everything from confidence to energy levels, let’s take a look at some easy ways to improve posture that you can practice anywhere – at home, at your work desk, even in your car!
There are so many simple ways to retrain your body to sit up straighter. It’s as simple as placing things that you look at on a regular basis, slightly higher than they’d normally be placed.
At work, you probably spend much of the day looking at your computer monitor. Try placing the monitor on some type of riser, so that it sits slightly higher on your desk. This will force you to look up instead of down at it, which will in turn change the rest of your posture.
Try placing wall pictures, mirrors and other things you look at frequently in a higher position, so that you’ll need to stretch your neck a little bit more to see them. This will help straighten your spine and improve your posture.
In the Car
Do you spend a lot of time driving? Try adjusting things like the rear-view mirrors and steering wheel slightly higher so that the focus is upward vs. downward. This will help encourage your body to adjust posture.
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