Posture and Hormones: The Scientific Connection

Many scientists explain that your posture has a direct correlation to your disposition, with poor posture leading to a hormone imbalance that can cause anxiety, depression, and other temperament disorders. Similarly, those who feel depressed are likely to have bad posture, sitting in a slumped position with their head hanging low. Paying close attention to your posture can help you understand various influxes in your mood and demeanour, since the two are connected directly.

Although it’s obvious that sitting or standing with bad posture is indicative of a poor mood, it’s also obvious that sitting or standing with bad posture can put you in a bad mood, even when you’re not in one already. Known as “embodied cognition,” the idea is that your body reacts to the condition of the mind. However, the same is true for the mind: it reacts to the condition of the body.

Evidence to Support the Connectionposture

Hormonal imbalances have been studied by scientists for quite some time, with interesting discoveries made throughout the entire history of mankind. There have even been presentations created to support the scientific findings on the connection between posture and mood, namely through the popular TED Talks that are known as an authority for newly discovered information. In 2012, Amy Cuddy lead a two-minute presentation describing what she called “power poses” – a group of posture-specific positions that directly affect a person’s mindset. Her discoveries painted a picture of how important a person’s posture is to the way they feel.

Displaying your confidence to onlookers is one thing, but bad posture can affect your hidden hormones as well. According to Cuddy’s studies, a slumped or mismanaged posture can lead to increased testosterone levels and decreased levels of cortisol – the stress hormone. Directly affecting the functionality of the brain, poor posture can pave the way for otherwise avoidable mental illnesses that may negatively affect the decisions you make on a daily basis.

Ohio University psychologist, Richard Petty, stated that the brain contains an area in it that physically reflects a person’s confidence. So, while it’s true that you are sitting or standing improperly because you are sad, it’s also true that you are sad because you’re sitting or standing improperly. How that area of the brain is triggered is still unknown for the most part, but a direct connection is inarguably there. Just as forced smiling can lead to actual happiness, forced posture can lead to confidence and improved mental health.

Cognitive Associations Related to Positive Mental Health

Scientists and psychologists such as Cuddy and Petty have noticed something that is otherwise obvious to the rest of us: there are certain positions and postures that make a person feel more confident and powerful automatically. For example, if two people are sitting on chairs of unequal height, then the person on the higher chair will instinctively feel more authoritative. These cognitive associations are made mechanically, with your body’s posture instantly telling your brain to function at a more self-assured level.

As a result, the hormones in your brain and body become streamlined, pulsing through your veins in balanced proportion and thereby supporting your mood and demeanour. This instant effect on your mood is attributed to the posture you hold, not dependent on the reality of the situation (or, the simple adjustment of seating heights). The same can be said about the way you sit or stand; we end up feeling more mentally stable because of the automatic association we make when we feel taller.

To further support the findings, 71 college students were asked to sit with various postures and then rate their effectiveness on a hypothetical team. The 2009 study, led by Petty and his associates, discovered something remarkable. The students with the best posture ended up having more positive things to say about their abilities than those with poor posture. Believing they could perform better than their counterparts, it was then discovered that the confident students had more positive demeanours and, later, better balanced hormones which promoted their apparent self-assurance.

The Proper Posture and Personal Power Correlation

To feel more confident, powerful, or positive requires supportive hormones in the brain and body. Therefore, proper posture can directly affect a person’s hormonal balance, or lack thereof. Because of the increase in a collapsed posture throughout contemporary society, the prevalence of posture-related depression and anxiety in modern culture is becoming palpable. Slouched sitting or standing is thereby directly associated with feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness, and other negative emotions. In short, sitting in a helpless or vulnerable position inherently makes a person feel helpless and vulnerable.

For example, sitting in an upright and alert position makes it much easier for a person to feel more powerful, reducing the production of cortisol and enhancing the development of empowering thoughts, memories, or emotions. Studies suggest that sitting at computers and/or looking down at our smartphones may have a direct effect on the increase of depression in today’s world.

Tips for Improving Posture and Mood

Since so many studies have proven that posture directly affects the mood we are in, it’s important to improve the way you sit and stand to balance your hormones and enhance your disposition. According to Petty and Cuddy’s research, it only takes an average of 2-3 minutes to change your hormones and make a big difference in your energy levels and temperament. In essence, you can immediately change the chemistry of your brain by simply changing the way you carry yourself.

Instead of waiting on your mood or circumstances to change on their own, simply improve your posture and enjoy an immediate transformation. Scientists associated with the studies conducted by Cuddy and Petty suggest hanging photos of people you love and/or things that make you happy slightly above eye level to encourage better posture. Instead of validating your negative thoughts and subsequent hormonal imbalances, simply force yourself to sit or stand better and you will begin to feel better almost immediately.
Put simply: it’s not what we think; it’s how much attention and trust we give to the things we think- especially the negative and self-defeating things – and how we react to those personal opinions.


Guest author: Karen Boyle is interested in Functional Health at Amchara (Somerset, UK & Malta) which has been voted ‘Top 10 wellbeing retreats in the world-2017” by & ‘Top 10 retreats for health in the world-2016” by Amchara Health Retreats have been featured in: VOGUE, INDEPENDENT, PORTER, MARIE CLAIRE, HEALTH & FITNESS, CHANNEL 4 and more.
Follow her on Instagram @amcharahealth

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