Can Proper Posture Help Ease Depression?
- Published on: 20 January, 2018
- Last update: 20 January, 2018
Stop scrolling for a second and think about your posture at this very moment. Are you hunched over? Are you making yourself smaller, or are you sitting/standing up tall, unafraid to take up space in this world?
Believe it or not, making small tweaks to your posture throughout the day can have huge benefits in terms of your mood and the way you view the world.
I’m sure many of you have seen the brilliant Ted Talk on body language by social scientist Amy Cuddy. We already know that our body language impacts the way others perceive us… but Amy wanted to understand whether or not subtle posture changes can impact the way we see ourselves. She primes us with the fact that when we feel happy, we smile. Yet forcing ourselves to smile (by clenching a pen between our teeth) works the other way around too, and can actually MAKE us feel happy! Since this goes both ways, could a similar effect be extended to our stance?
According to Cuddy’s research, high-power alpha male primates consistently exhibit high levels of testosterone and low levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This is also true for powerful & effective human leaders. What’s amazing is that you don’t have to be BORN a high-testosterone leader to succeed – your posture can have a major effect on those hormone levels in just a matter of minutes.
In one of her experiments, she had people adopt either a high power pose (HPP) or low power pose (LPP) for 2 minutes, with their hormone levels measured via saliva before and after the experiment. The HPP group had a 20% increase in testosterone and a 25% decrease in cortisol, whereas the LPP group had a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in stress hormone.
Remember, this was after just two minutes!
Two measly minutes led to hormonal changes that can configure your brain to either be assertive and confident, or stress-reactive and shut down. Our bodies are a wonderful tool (which we have on us at all times), so we might as well use it to improve our mental health.
Another study published via Health Psychology in 2014 examined the effects of posture on mood for 74 individuals. The participants were assigned a posture position, then taped there to prevent them from moving. According to the study, “the upright participants reported feeling more enthusiastic, excited, and strong, while the slumped participants reported feeling more fearful, hostile, nervous, quiet, passive and sluggish.” Individuals with good posture also had feelings of greater self-esteem and fewer negative emotions.
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Do you have to beat your chest like an alpha male gorilla everywhere you go? Not at all. The most important thing to take away from this is that we can all benefit from being more mindful of our posture. If you notice yourself slouching, bring your shoulder blades down and straighten your back. Tiny changes = big results! “When you choose to put your body in a different mode, it’s harder to drop into depression. When you start integrating better posture into your daily life, your energy level stays higher and your quality of life is better.” – Erik Peper, Ph.D.