Linda Lewis Griffith

Ways to improve your mood through posture

Special to The Tribune

Mom was right when she told you to stand up straight. Good posture not only makes you look better, it actually impacts how you think and perform. San Francisco State University Professor of Health Education Erik Peper, Ph.D., surveyed 110 students in his classes who were instructed to first walk down the hallway in a slouched position and later skip down the hallway. They were then asked to rate their energy levels.

Every student reported that slouched walking decreased energy while skipping made them feel livelier. Students who were generally more depressed had far less energy after slouched walking than those who were not depressed.

Research published in the March 2015 issue of the Journal of Behavior, Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry asked volunteers to memorize a list of positive and negative words, then walk on a treadmill in either a depressed style (with shoulders slumped and limited arm movements) or a happier style (back straight, arms swinging). Recall tests revealed that subjects who walked in a depressed manner were more likely to recall negative words than those who walked in an upright, positive way.

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy has studied the effects of power poses, the body postures we assume when we’re feeling confident and dominant. She explains in her 2010 TED talk that high-power poses are expansive movements, like hands on hips, chest puffed out, arms outstretched and held high, feet apart and planted firmly on the ground. These movements are innate and occur in both primates and humans. Low-power movements involve hunching, crossing our legs, touching our necks, holding our arms and becoming smaller.

Her findings, published in the October 2010 issue of Psychological Science, showed that adopting a high-power pose for two minutes increased testosterone levels by 8 percent and decreased levels of cortisol (a hormone related to stress) by 25 percent. On the other hand, assuming a low-power pose had the opposite effects — a 10 percent decrease in testosterone and 15 percent increase in stress levels.

Cuddy suggests that we take a high-power pose before going to a job interview or giving a big speech. Better yet, stand up straight as a habit. Hold your head high. Mom will be so pleased.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com.

SIX SIMPLE WAYS TO BE AT YOUR BEST

  • Take a quick body scan. Notice how you tend to sit, walk and stand. Identify tendencies to shrink or look smaller versus being comfortable in your space.
  • Keep your chin up. Look 10 yards ahead, not down at your shoes. You’ll minimize the chances of falling and be kinder to your neck.
  • Move with energy and purpose. Swing your arms. Walk briskly. Skip whenever possible. Your heart and your mood will thank you.
  • Dance. Groove to your favorite tunes to have fun and stave off depression.
  • Give yourself a big hug. Wrapping your arms around your own shoulders increases levels of oxytocin and makes you feel calm and loved.
  • Fake it. Don’t feel confident and cheery? Pretend. Acting as if you’re on top of the world increases the likelihood things will get better. Give it a try!
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