If you see a person sitting on a bench all hunched over, you can almost be sure that they aren’t in a good mood. As humans, we can read body language, so the way we hold ourselves says everything about who we are. With that said, visualize yourself: What does your posture say about you? If you are hunched over, you aren’t presenting a positive message, and your overall mood is likely negative.
The real question is: Can we directly influence our mood by improving our posture? Can we sit up or stand up straight and improve our mood just like that? According to an increasing number of studies, the answer is yes.
The hypothesis that muscular states relate to certain emotions appears to be true.  In fact, there have been scientific tests on different posture positions and their relation to specific emotions.
In one study, measurements of blood pressure, heart rate, and subject feedback indicated that a slumped posture is not only bad for spinal health but is directly related to negative emotions.  This means people who have poor sitting or standing posture are more likely to have a negative perception of life (but it should be noted that they are not necessarily angry or sad).
According to a 2017 study, posture affects both mood and thoughts  and having poor posture led to more negative thoughts overall compared to straight or control postures.
“The present study demonstrates for the first time that negative mood is not just associated with a stooped body posture, stooped body posture also resulted in relatively less effective negative mood regulation than straight or control postures…The next time you are feeling down, consider that it may be your stooped posture that keeps your spirits from going up.”
Could posture be the external manifestation of our physicality? This likely explains why we tend to hunch over when we’re in a bad mood. In most cases, people in a bad mood don’t want to interact with the rest of the world and confine themselves to negative thoughts. This tells onlookers to leave them alone as they’re just not in the mood to socialize with other people at that moment.
While we can’t be in a good mood all the time, if you consistently slip into poor posture, you are increasing the likelihood of having negative thoughts. These negative thoughts can pile up over time and could affect overall quality of life. If not alleviated, this will likely form habits that further reinforce negativity.
In the immortal words of Charles Darwin:
“proud and successful human beings are likely to display an upright and erect bearing”
Do you feel proud and successful? If you do, your posture should show it. After improving posture and exuding self-confidence, positive things will happen to you. Everybody wants to be around someone who is confident and proud, without being arrogant about it. Science says the best way to show this trait is to stand or sit up straight and focus on the positive aspects of life.
In addition to consciously pursuing excellent posture, avoiding activities that force you to hunch over will also support good posture efforts. Activities like, sitting in front of the computer, or having your head hang over your phone need to be limited, mainly because these habits can increase risk of chronic diseases. [4, 5]
You can still enjoy time on the computer or phone but focus on improving your workstation to maintain proper posture. From setting up a standing workstation to concentrate on ways to use your phone without slouching or hanging your head, it’s all about being conscious on how your body is positioned during any activity and making a habit out of it.
Pro tip: Exercise Improves Posture. Specific muscles, especially in the neck and back, become weak from poor posture. Some of the ways to strengthen these muscles include walking and working with weights. Exercise also contributes to positive neurotransmitter production gives people a natural high and helps them be in a good mood even after a tough workout.
How does stress affect our health? Without being too technical about it, our body responds to stress by increasing heart rate which in turn improves blood circulation in areas that we would need during a fight or flight situation.
Stress on its own is a biological necessity and enabled our ancestors to either avoid danger or survive it. The resulting fight or escape helps the body have a physical outlet for stress and lets its systems “cool down” shortly.
Our stressors today – money, emotions, deadlines, relationships – are more abstract. Abstract stressors aren’t something we’re meant to physically run from or fight, so what happens is we’re always stressed out with no real way for our body “cool down”, this is especially true if you’re also sedentary.
If you’re not currently physically active, starting a fitness program and sitting correctly could be a simple strategy to help fight stress.  By standing up straight, moving forward with confidence, and tackling stressful situations, we gain the confidence we need to remain positive in almost any situation. On the other hand, people who deal with stressful situations while slouching or being hunched over often suffer prolonged bouts of stress.
So more than anything, stand up straight and remain positive. While it may be hard at first, think about something that makes you happy, even when you are stressed out. Here’s a quick 4-step process to fix your posture right now.
Continue to think about the positive aspects of life and avoid worrying about any problems at this time. If it helps, consider performing all of this in front of the mirror and observe how proper posture changes your perspective.
Need some more ideas to reduce stress? Check out more ways to reduce stress with these helpful tips that take 5 minutes or less. Or get help from acupuncture to reduce stress.
People who exude confidence often make career advancements with ease. It’s because anyone who owns a business wants nothing more than confident, positive people, in charge. Power poses provides a significant increase in testosterone and a reduction in cortisol. Stress levels can decrease, and self-esteem can increase simply by assuming power positions.
Displaying a confident posture has been associated with a better social life. Since people are naturally attracted to others who are confident and happy, people who display these traits usually have no problem making friends.
Studies have shown a good posture contributes to a positive outlook, increased confidence, optimism, lower levels of stress, higher energy, and better well-being. Just think about all the confident, happy people you know, do any of them slouch over?
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Lopez LD, Reschke PJ, Knothe JM, Walle EA. Postural Communication of Emotion: Perception of Distinct Poses of Five Discrete Emotions. Frontiers in Psychology. 2017;8:710. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00710.
Nair S, Sagar M, Sollers J, Consedine N, Broadbent E. Do slumped and upright postures affect stress responses? A randomized trial. Health Psychol. 2015;34(6):632-41.
Veenstra L, Schneider IK, Koole SL. Embodied mood regulation: the impact of body posture on mood recovery, negative thoughts, and mood-congruent recall. Cogn Emot. 2017;31(7):1361-1376.
Naeem Z. Health risks associated with mobile phones use. International Journal of Health Sciences. 2014;8(4):V-VI.
Biddle SJH, Bennie JA, Bauman AE, et al. Too much sitting and all-cause mortality: is there a causal link? BMC Public Health. 2016;16:635. doi:10.1186/s12889-016-3307-3.
Carney, Dana R., et al, “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance.” Psychological Science 21, no.10 (October 2010): 1363-1368
Dr. DeFabio is a highly regarded chiropractor in Chicago who focuses on helping his patients achieve optimal health and wellness. He takes a holistic approach to care, treating symptoms and addressing underlying issues to promote long-term healing. Dr. DeFabio is passionate about empowering his patients to take control of their health and live their best lives. You can find him surfing, skateboarding, and volunteering at the Lakeview Food Pantry when he’s not in the office.