28 Jan Good Posture for Mood, Memory, Confidence and Stress
Why is good Posture Important?
Great posture can literally change who you are! Not only does great posture help to stop you from getting back and neck pain, it can also improve your mood, stress levels, confidence, your digestion, breathing and even your productivity and appearance. In the first post we looked at the influence of poor posture on back and neck pain and injury. In this post we will look at the effect on Mood, Memory, Stress, Confidence and Appearance and in the final post we will look at poor posture’s effect on Breathing, Digestion and Productivity.
In recent study 74 participants who were randomly assigned to either a slumped or upright seated posture. Their backs were taped to hold this posture throughout the study. Participants completed a reading task, the Trier Social Stress speech task, which assesses mood, self-esteem and perceived threat. Upright participants reported higher self-esteem, more arousal, better mood, and lower fear, compared to slumped participants. Linguistic analysis showed slumped participants used more negative emotion words, first-person singular pronouns, affective process words, sadness words, and fewer positive emotion words and total words during the speech. It was concluded that adopting an upright seated posture in the face of stress can help to maintain self-esteem, reduce negative mood, and increase positive mood compared to a slumped posture. Furthermore, sitting upright increases rate of speech and reduces self-focus. Therefore, sitting upright may be a simple behavioral strategy to help build resilience to stress.
But it’s not just sitting still with poor posture that can adversely affect your mood. Although it is generally accepted that physical activity can help your mood, if you louch while you exercise, it may not have the desired result. This was demonstrated in a study in which subjects were asked to memorize words associated with emotion while walking on a treadmill with slumped or upright postures. They found that subjects who were encouraged to walk with a more slumped body posture remembered more negative words on a follow-up test. Those who walked with an upright posture recalled more positive words. The researchers concluded that assuming a “happier” posture while walking helped to create happier people.
This is also supported by Dr. Erik Peper, San Francisco State University, who assessed how body posture affects subjective energy level as well as the ability to generate positive and negative thoughts. In one experiment, test subjects either skipped, swinging their arms in an upward motion, as they walked down a hall or slouched as they walked down the hall. Almost all of the skipping participants reported feeling more energetic, happier, and positive. Meanwhile, those who slouched reported nearly the opposite emotions; they felt sad, lonely, isolated, sleeping, and “zombie-like.”
In another series of experiments, Peper discovered body posture can affect the recall of positive or negative memories. When sitting in a collapsed position and looking downward, participants in a study found it much easier to recall hopeless, helpless, powerless, and negative memories, than empowering, positive memories. When sitting upright and looking upward, it was difficult and for many of the participants nearly impossible to recall hopeless, helpless, powerless, and negative memories and easier to recall empowering, positive memories. An upright posture improves memory in general, some say, because sitting up straight helps increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, and according to some accounts, by up to 40 percent.
Stress levels & Confidence
Many people by now are familiar with Amy Cuddy’s 2012 TedTalk where she proposes a simple life hack: Assume a “power posture” for just two minutes each day to improve your destiny. As she explains, social scientists have noted how expansive, open postures reflect high power, while narrow, closed postures reflect low power in humans as well as non-human primates. Yet, these postures not only display power, they also can produce it. Researchers have proven in various studies that when people adopt high power poses they increase their feelings of dominance, risk-taking behavior, power, action orientation, pain tolerance, and actual testosterone. At the same time, people who adopt high power poses reduce their anxiety and actual cortisol (the stress hormone).
The study from Harvard showed that when people slouched, they had a 10% decrease in testosterone (self confidence hormone) and a 15% increase in cortisol (the stress hormone). Furthermore, poor posture also encourages upper chest breathing which can trigger the fight-flight stress response, further increasing the amount of cortisol released. That translates into low self-confidence and high stress. Although short-term high cortisol levels are a normal reaction to stressors large and small, being in a position of lower power (at work, at home, in social groups) has been shown to cause a higher incidence of stress-related illnesses (Cohen et al., 2006) and a lower resistance to disease. The continuous state of alarm and elevated cortisol experienced by low-power individuals can also cause inflammation, high emotional reactivity, a high allostatic load, stress-related illnesses (irritable bowel syndrome) and memory loss.
The good news is, that if you correct your posture it only takes 2 minutes for the hormone levels of cortisol to decrease and testosterone to increase. In short, changing our body posture to indicate power (good posture), regardless of whether we feel powerful or not) causes specific advantages and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes, with more positive subsequent behavioral choices.
So reminding yourself to maintain an upright posture during a job interview could do more than just give your interviewer the impression that you are confident – it can make you truly feel and therefore act more confident due to the higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol.
But how do you increase your awareness of your posture?
That’s why we developed PROMETHEUS!
Designed by leading Physical Therapists, PROMETHEUS is a software solution that utilises real time posture analytics via your webcam to improve your health, happiness and wellbeing – preventing pain and injury, to help optimise overall health. PROMETHEUS will also prompt you to take regular breaks from sitting or standing and alert you if you slip into poor posture habits for too long or if your blink-rate slips below optimal. PROMETHEUS works to make you healthier while you work and play!