You may start reading this with your shoulders back and down, neck centred, spine upright and your pelvis erect, you may be seated or standing, staring at your screen hopefully with your jaw relaxed. Why do I know? You read the word posture from the get go, and your mother’s sweet voice whispered in your mind’s ear reminding you during your younger years when you were caught looking down and slouched over. We still fall victim to gravity regardless of the countless reminders to stand against it, not because of our weak “core”, our flat feet, our rotator cuff tears or our bulging discs but the very device we are holding to read this article; your smartphone or tablet. More on this later…
Let’s go ahead and assume a more upright alignment for two minutes, breathing gently down towards the stomach, keeping the spine tall and head well balanced. By embodying this new way of interacting with your surrounding, keep taking mental notes on your feelings and outlook on life.
What comes up? Confidence? Positivity? Feelings of being in charge? Less fatigued?
Don’t be surprised if your new spatial alignment slowly nudges your mood north. This discovery is thanks to the research conducted from Dr. Richard Petty, professor of Psychology, and his team at Ohio State University, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. The study consisted of instructing 71 college students to either “sit up straight” and “push out their chest” or “sit slouched” with their ” face pointed south towards their knees” while holding their assigned posture, the students were asked to list positive or negative personal traits that they thought would contribute to their future professional performance and job satisfaction, how they would rate themselves as a future professional.
The findings were astounding, the students ratings were heavily dependant on their assumed posture during the time they wrote their short dissertation on themselves. The students who took on a more upright posture trusted their thoughts and self assessment on their future selves whilst those who sat slouched did not trust anything they wrote down whether positive or negative.
Those in the upright posture gathered more empowering and positive traits about themselves while the ones who slouched had a predisposition to write down helpless and negative connotations about their future selves.
In her 2012 TED talk psychologist, Amy Cuddy, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc presented that two minutes of “power poses” a day can change how we perceive ourselves. This is thanks to a shift in your hormones that takes place when the body is placed in an upright alignment, our nervous system will respond to our body’s position in space and produce more testosterone and less cortisol, otherwise known as our stress hormone. This injection of confidence can pay great dividends in our daily performance and relationships.
What does all this tell us?
Our bodies have a language during dynamic and static states, known as movement and posture respectively. Our thoughts and actions reflect our state of mind. Our physicality and psychology are intertwined thus addressing our body will affect our psychology and vice versa. Perhaps it’s a challenge to change the way we think, but moving more may well be a great start to open up biological pathways that increase happiness and energy.
The next time you are feeling sad and depressed, tune into your posture or movement pattern, you will most likely be slumped over with your neck hanging over your smartphone checking your social feed, emails or catching up on some news sitting or walking with your feet entering and exiting under your gaze with every step.
You now know that you have the power to hack into your state of mind, through the use of your posture or movement.
It’s accurate to conclude that you may be sad and therefore you take on a position to reflect this mood, but the other side of the coin should also be considered by stating that you are sad because you are sitting or moving a certain way.
In this day in age, we are all slumped into our devices, it’s no surprise that teenage depression and suicide rates for young Australians are the highest in 10 years. This is not to say that we should sit here and solely blame our smartphones and posture, but perhaps thinking outside the box by using the proven link between body and mind, can help us address the issue in a more holistic way.
Where to from here?
If you suspect a mood disorder in your child, it’s best to suggest some movement approaches and postural retraining sessions to encourage embodied cognition. A few stretches with deep breathing that consider the whole body, a slight increase in heart rate to mobilise blood flow and sedentary muscles are great compliments to an upright posture, regularly practised through the course of the day.
According to popular research data on the posture-mood interface, it only takes two minutes to change your hormones, meaning you can change the chemistry in your brain by standing upright waiting for food in the cafeteria or sitting with a straighter spine and a taller chest while replying to emails or stuck in traffic. Hope you challenge yourself by noting how long you can adopt a posture friendly spine and offer your psyche the gift of a better confidence boost in reply to the curve balls that life throws your way.