How you hold and move your body, your posture, etc. directly impacts how you feel. You can learn to use this mind/body connection to change your mood at will. By changing your body posture and movement, you can change your mood.
The Mind Body Connection
It’s pretty well documented that your mind can impact your body function.
Scientists agree, “…there is no real division between mind and body because of networks of communication that exist between the brain and neurological, endocrine and immune systems…mind–body medicine provides one aspect—self-care—of a three-legged model of medicine, which also includes pharmacology and surgery”
The mind-body connection is real. However, you may not realize that your body posture can influence your mood.
Mood and Posture
When we feel confident, we have a certain posture. It’s tall and proud, the neck long and straight, the shoulders down and back.
There’s a way we move when we’re confident, and there’s a different way we hold ourselves when we’re sad. When we’re sad, we look down, our shoulders slump and curl in towards our chest. Our posture is stooped.
Ever see that movie “Inside Out”? It’s a cute animated movie about moods inside a little girl. There were an assortment of moods, joy, sadness, anger, and jealousy. Maybe more, I don’t recall. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know each mood by how they’re drawn.
Joy is bright yellow, happy, persistent and bubbly. Sadness is blue, mopey, unmotivated and depressed. Joy is expansive with arms and legs outstretched, and sadness is withdrawn, folded in and crouching. The makers of this movie clearly understood that when you feel a certain way, you hold your body a certain way.
It Works Both Ways
Turn that around now. Might it be possible that even as a mood can alter your posture in particular ways, you could achieve a particular mood by altering your posture?
It appears that, yes, it does work both ways. In fact, scientists have found evidence that upright posture can make you feel more confident and persistent.
“Research also suggests that sitting upright can make you feel more alert and enthusiastic, feel less fearful, and have higher self-esteem after a stressful task.” Elizabeth Broadbent, Ph.D.
So, reminding yourself to sit up straight might help you feel more upbeat and energetic. This is not new knowledge.
Grandma Was Right
“Stand up straight.”
These bits of folk wisdom have persisted for the simple reason that they truly do help a person feel more confident and capable. In fact, for most people, the difference is noticeable and immediate.
When we feel more confident and capable, we are more confident and capable. We are what we think we are.
How to Sit Up Straight, and Other Power Poses
- First, look straight ahead, straighten your back, and level your shoulders.
- Then, think about stretching the top of your head towards the ceiling while gently drawing your shoulder blades down and together.
Your feet should be flat on the floor.
Standing in a superman pose, with your hands on your hips, and your chin up can give you a boost of confidence.
Smiling a wide smile can cause you to release feel good chemicals in your brain. Over time, this practice may be beneficial in reducing symptoms of depression.
Make eye contact when speaking and listening to others. Eye contact helps you relate more equally, shows the other person you are paying attention, and can make you more likable. (Tip: be natural with this. Over-the-top-creepy eye contact is not what we’re after here.)
Be Happier, and More Confident
Improving your posture can assist with symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. When you feel confident, you are naturally more resourceful and persistent. As a bonus, good posture can alleviate back pain.
Honestly, there’s zero reason you should not try this, but if you need a few more reasons why you should, let’s look at some scenarios. Ask yourself, “How can confidence help in these situations?”
- professional interactions: boss, co-workers, customers
- relationships with family, friends, partner
Professionally or personally, there is nothing I can think of that is not enhanced by being happier and more confident because you’ve corrected your posture. Confidence is a crucial element of success, and reflects a healthy self-image.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It, Or Not?
False confidence, or “faking it” is not ideal because you want to be genuine in your interactions with other people. Some might argue that you need to be genuinely who you are and feel what you feel, or else you’re just repressing your emotions.
Repressing emotions, bottling things up, doesn’t tend to work in the long run. Often, your emotions will come out sideways in an immature way. You’re unhappy at work, but you can’t yell at your boss, so you snap at your partner or your friends. Clearly repression isn’t the greatest option.
That being said, I believe faking it till you make it can be helpful as a starting point. The idea is to act confident until you become confident.
Some people have such poor self image and self-esteem that confidence might as well be one of the rings of Saturn. It seems worlds away. In this case, faking confidence by assuming a confident posture can actually help to build your self-worth so that you can actually be confident and stop faking.
I don’t want you to think I’m suggesting you repress your emotions or anything. Be who you are. Feel what you feel. Your feelings can reveal important things about how your thinking and interpreting the world around you.
The danger is in getting stuck in the power of your emotion. It’s just an emotion. You are not your anger, or your sadness. These emotions are a signal that maybe something needs to change. Feel it, learn the lesson.
Then, correct your posture! This will help to change your mood, and will help you to feel stronger and more resourceful.
Occasionally reminding yourself to sit up straight can make a world of difference to your mood, and your self image. It’s non-chemical, non-invasive, and totally free.
To me, this is a no-brainer. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by becoming mindful of, and fixing your posture.