Are you sitting up straight because you are feeling confident? Or are you feeling confident because you are sitting up straight? Actually, the answer is either/both. Just like your mood will affect your posture, your posture will also affect your mood. The mind/body relationship goes both ways. This is another beautiful display of the mind/body continuum in action.
Posture is potentially one of the most unconscious expressions of who we are. You could recognize people you know just by seeing their shadow move, based on their general posture. Take a moment to think of some people in your life, friends, family and co-workers. What posture do they generally display? Are they upright and regal, or slumped over and collapsed? Compare this with their general attitude about life, their levels of optimism versus pessimism and whether or not they tend towards depression. Can you see a correlation with their general posture? I am pretty certain that you probably can.
Plenty of research has shown that not only does mood affect how we carry ourselves, but that how we carry ourselves from posture to body language, also affects how we feel. In one experiment, researches showed that when subjects held a pencil between their teeth, using muscles that are also used for smiling, they generated feelings of genuine happiness. Another experiment showed that when subjects where asked to skip instead of walking, they felt much happier and more energized than the subjects that were asked to walk in a slumped over posture. In yet another experiment subjects that were seated in an upright posture reported feeling more strong, enthusiastic and excited. The subjects that were seated in a slumped posture reported feeling more afraid, anxious, hostile, tired and passive.
Posture also has interesting links to memory. One study showed that subjects that were seated in a slumped posture had a tendency to recall mostly negative memories while subjects seated in an upright and confident posture had a tendency to recall mostly happy and uplifting memories. It even showed that those seated in good posture actually had a really difficult time recalling sad and hopeless memories. Good posture also generally improves memory by increasing blood flow to the brain.
When we feel better physically, we feel better mentally which indicates that posture can indirectly affect our mood by affecting physical symptoms. One example of this is the effect posture has on digestion. When we assume good and upright posture, our core muscles are toned which support our internal organs. Slumped posture has shown to cause multiple digestive problems as a result of our organs being compressed which slows down digestion and can lead to a host of problems.
Posture has far reaching effects on physical fitness and how our musculo-skeletal system feels. When we assume good posture and have improved alignment in general, our spines are decompressed and our bones are in a better position to hold us upright versus unnecessary muscular strain. Living in a body that is musculo-skeletally balanced can reduce pain and increase feelings of well being in many ways. This is one of the ways in which movement practices that focus on correct alignment, such as Pilates and yoga, can profoundly improve our mood long after we have completed a session.
The next time you find yourself feeling down, try stretching for a few minutes to increase blood flow, then sit or stand up tall, relax your shoulders, take a couple of long deep breaths and smile. You will be amazed how quickly you can give yourself an uplift just by making some easy and small changes in your posture and physiology.
© Copyright 2015 Vanessa Naja/Holistic Moving