Sit up straight, and you may notice your mood, energy and confidence improve. New research suggests that a simple improvement in posture can help to relieve depressive symptoms.
A new study from the University of Auckland examined the role of posture in people who showed symptoms of depression, one of which is a slouched, drooping posture. It is known that sitting or standing with upright, proper posture can improve mood in those without depression, but this new research shows that it may also help those with depression.
While chronic depression must be treated by a professional, it is interesting to note that such a simple change in the body can affect mood almost immediately. The study brought together over 60 people with mild to moderate depressive symptoms and analyzed their posture as a whole, both before and after the exercise. All of the subjects exhibited a slouched posture prior to the study.
The method was simple. Half of the group was asked to sit as they normally would, while the other half was given simple instructions to sit upright, pull their shoulders pack, and lift their heads toward the ceiling. These subjects were given physiotherapy tape to keep them in this upright position, and all participants were given the Trier Social Stress Test to determine their self-confidence. The test included giving a five-minute speech and counting backwards from 1,022 in increments of 13. At several points during this test, the participants were given a questionnaire about their current mood to fill out.
The difference in the results from those who were encouraged to keep proper posture was far improved than those who sat in their usual posture.
“In our study, asking individuals with mild to moderate depression to sit upright reduced their fatigue and increased their enthusiasm over a short time period, compared to individuals who sat in their usual posture,” said Elizabeth Broadbent, associate professor of Health Psychology at the University of Auckland.
The upright-posture group also exuded more self-confidence, using less self-focused words such as “I” and “me.” They also spoke more words in total than their counterparts, suggesting that they had more energy from this improvement in posture.
As stated earlier, simply improving posture is not a fix for severe or chronic depression. However, in mild or moderate cases, and in healthy people, it can be a cause for immediate improvement in mood, energy and confidence. The inspiration for this study actually came from a personal experience Broadbent had in which she noticed a marked improvement in her mood upon pulling her shoulders down and back and lifting her head up high.
“I hypothesized that, if this worked for me, it might work for other people, too…” she said. “From my own experience and from my research, I think adopting an upright posture can help people feel better.”