Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Truth About Posture

Good posture can make you feel
happier and more productive.
Image: Shutterstock
As much as I hate to admit it, good posture is really important. I’ve slouched over since I can remember, and now that I’m getting older, I’m regretting that I didn’t try harder to sit up straight when I was a kid. My body is so used to slouching that my shoulders are actually rotated forward and are extremely inflexible. They are the bane of my existence during yoga.

But having good posture affects a lot of things for the better. Not only does it inform the way others see us, there’s also evidence that it can also affect our mood and productivity levels. An experiment conducted by Erik Peper, a Dutch behavioral scientist and professor, showed that when students sat up straight, positive memories and thoughts came to mind more easily.

Peper has conducted several experiments on walking and sitting up straight, as well as other types of body language. His experiments’ outcomes have led him to the conclusion that energy and mood are elevated when you sit up straight versus slouching down. It’s the same concept of power dressing, or of smiling even when you don’t feel like it (which often results in you being more cheerful).

Scientists call this kind of body-to-mind influence “embodiment,” and its effects are real. “As soon as we are born, we begin developing rich neural pathways between the behavior or smiling and positive emotion and memories of positive emotion,” says Dana Carney of UC Berkely. Our brains know that those body movements are associated with certain emotions, and thus when we carry them out, it helps our minds respond that way.

I’m not saying that you’ll feel a jolt of happiness as soon as you sit up straight, but rather that you might find it easier to be cheerful by doing so. It’s all about the potential.