Happiness and posture are closely intertwined. Whether you like it or not, how you ‘are’ in your body affects how you ‘are’ in your head.
If you’re feeling sad, there’s a good chance you’re slumped over, or, quite literally, you’re looking down. That phrase is there for a meaning! A study found that patients with mild to moderate depression felt more alert and reported less anxiety after changing their posture to keep their back and shoulders upright while sitting. Another posture study found that walking with a slouch made participants feel more depressed, whilst doing the opposite help them feel better. Whilst I can’t vouch for the efficacy of these studies, we all know how feeling down looks, and how feeling great looks!
So if you find it hard to have to good posture, and you aren’t the cheeriest of souls, here’s some good news for you. Improving your posture can improve your mood. Happiness and posture go hand in hand!
Can you change your posture to improve your happiness?
I’m a Cognitive Scientist (BSc Hons), but it wasn’t until many years after getting my Bachelor’s that I began to take note of the undeniable relationship between how you feel and how you hold yourself. Now the field is taking a much larger interest in posture and how it can help you feel happier. And of course, how feeling happier can make you have better posture.
Many meditation techniques take breathing and posture as key during the meditation. I’ve seen some top meditators with awful posture though, so it’s not a cure-all!
Don’t believe me? Just think about how you can sometimes tell someone’s job from the way they hold themselves. You can usually tell a priest, a cop, an army instructor, or a teacher just by how they hold themselves, even off-duty.
So what about if you sit at a desk all day, working at a computer? Or driving?
The chances are that all that sitting is done with some collapse into a slouch, and a big tendency to just your head forward to see the screen or road. Picture that posture now, and think about how that posture would make someone feel, compared to being upright and open.
Maybe our depressed society is suffering more from pulling down like that for long periods of time. By the way, if you’ve been sat here for a long time, go, now! Come back in a bit, I’ll still be here. Get moving!
Happiness and posture are intertwined.
Some therapists are now doing their talking therapies walking in parks with their clients for just that reason. Having upright open posture makes you feel better, just like feeling better makes you more likely to have open upright posture. So it’s a win-win!
More Studies on Happiness and posture.
Professor Richard Petty of Ohio State University suggests that how we feel has a lot to do with associations of feeling taller. Being above someone tells your brain you are more powerful. You can see this in Throne Rooms (you do have a throne room don’t you?), or the way in business some people will use height to gain authority in an interview or sales process.
The opposite is true too. Some of my clients who have been very tall have dreadful posture, because they’ve spent their lives trying to pull down to be less looked-at. Which makes them feel bad too. It take quite a bit of work to unravel the posture of a tall person who’s pulled down into themselves. If you are tall, just be tall! Pulling down and rounding your shoulders doesn’t really make you look shorter, but it does make you feel down!
More studies on emotion and posture.
In another study, students who adopted upright poses were much more likely to entertain positive beliefs about themselves than students who were encouraged to slouch. No surprise there! Psychology Professor Erik Peper from San Francisco State University found that sitting in a slouch encouraged ‘hopeless, powerless, and negative’ feelings, while an upright, powerful position makes it easier to have empowering thoughts and memories. Which makes a good case for having great posture!
Finally, it’s worth mentioning may Cuddy’s TED talk on how posture changes our hormone levels. Although the research is still under debate, I challenge you not to feel better by holding yourself better.
A final note on happiness and posture…
Come on grumpy, let’s get your posture sorted and start you on a path to feeling better right now. Take a look at our 5 ways to fix posture and make a start today on looking, acting and feeling like a million bucks. Or even just a teensy-weensy bit better!
Bye for now,