You know that one person in your life who's constantly harping on the importance of good posture? Unfortunately, the naggers might just be onto something. As it turns out, learning how your posture affects your mood will not only change the way you think about your body, but it also might turn you into one of those people you'd never want to be: the person who tells a friend that they might want to sit up a little straighter.
The truth is that your posture has a direct connection with your mind, and both can be affected by one another. This association is called "embodied cognition," and it essentially means that the relationship between your mind and your body runs both ways: Your body movements can affect your mood and overall mental well-being, and your moods can affect your body movements.
So if you're constantly trying to remember not to slouch while you're at work, you might find some motivation in thinking about how your posture can hurt or help your mood, because the truth is that your body language isn't just for other people. It's for yourself, too.
The way you stand, sit, or pose can have a massive impact on your confidence and level of positivity.
In the TED talk above, social psychologist Amy Cuddy talked about how your body language can not only communicate something about yourself to others (allowing them to make inferences and judgments of who you are), but it can also communicate to your brain how happy and content you are in any given scenario.
"We are also affected by our [own] non-verbals," Cuddy explained. Essentially, the more powerful or confident you feel, the more you tend to open up. Your chin is up, your shoulders are back, and you're actively taking up space wherever you are. Conversely, when you're feeling "small," insecure, or unhappy, you tend to want to become small, to take up as little space as possible, and so you hunch your shoulders and look down.
Here's an even freakier mind-body connection, as revealed by a 2003 study conducted at Ohio State University:
When you nod or shake your head during a conversation, this movement can affect your opinion of the other person, or even of the topic you're talking about, without you even realizing it.
So when you're talking to someone and nodding your head for the sheer sake of being polite, you might just be affecting your own opinion on a topic without even being consciously aware of it, which is pretty scary when you think about it. Staying cognizant of your body is a crucial aspect of staying in touch with your own mental well-being and consciousness.
As Cuddy explained in her TED talk, your posture can literally affect your hormones, thus impacting your overall feelings of happiness or sadness.
If you have terrible posture (like me), or you're just plain unaware of it, don't panic. Changing your posture may sound overwhelming, or even impossible, but it doesn't have to be.
First, you can do small everyday things, like strike a power pose (essentially standing like a superhero, with your feet spread wide and your hands on your hips) before a big meeting, or make it a point to stretch throughout the day. Both of these things will help you reassess your own posture, although whether or not they actually work to make you happier all on their own is up for debate. It certainly doesn't hurt to try!
If you're a constant back-sloucher or you're always looking down, you can try some of these quick tips for improving posture, like sitting all the way back in your chair, strengthening your core, and checking yourself out in the mirror from time to time to make sure that your spine is elongated and your shoulders are relaxed.
Rest assured, better posture can definitely be learned over time, and your mind will thank you for putting in the effort in the long run.