Do yourself a favor right now, and sit up a little straighter in your chair, on your couch or wherever may be. Take notice of how it makes you feel.
Previous research has shown that good posture can offer a self-esteem boost, while increasing positive mood states. Now, a new study suggests that it may actually help in treating depression.
According to this research, bad posture is actually a diagnostic component of depression. To determine whether changes in posture could reduce negative feelings and fatigue, researchers screened and selected 61 participants with symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
The subjects were randomly assigned to sit down while maintaining their usual posture or while maintaining an upright posture. The upright group had to straighten their backs, keep the tops of their heads level with the ceiling and and keep their shoulder blades pulled back and down. Physiotherapy tape was applied to the subjects to help them maintain this position as they completed the Trier Social Stress Test, a speech test designed to reliably trigger stress in participants.
The subjects who maintained an upright posture showed improvements in their positivity and reduction in fatigue compared to those who maintained their usual posture. During the speech test, the subjects who sat upright used significantly more words and fewer first person singular personal pronouns when compared to the group that sat in their usual position. These findings suggest that participants with improved posture were more energetic and less self-focused than the other group.
In both groups of participants, upright shoulder angle was linked to reduced negativity and anxiety. Because the study was brief and only looked at changes that occurred over a short period of time in mild to moderate cases of depression, future research will be necessary to determine how posture might affect people with clinical depression, particularly in the long term.
Despite the limitations, the study’s findings suggest that it’s worth paying attention to your posture. You could instantly feel more positive, less fatigued and less focused on yourself.
Tips for improving posture
It’s easy enough to tell yourself to stand or sit up straight, but how do you know if you’re doing it correctly? Here are a few tips from WebMD:
- Practice standing up against a wall, as if you were going to measure your height.
- Look straight forward in front of you, and tuck your chin in slightly.
- Move your shoulders back, and check to see that your ears are over the middle of your shoulders.
- Check to make sure your stomach is tucked in and that your butt or hips don’t stick out.
- Straighten your legs to encourage your entire body to lengthen as you feel your head stretching toward the ceiling.
- If you’re sitting, sit all the way back up against your seat and optionally use a small, rolled up towel behind your back to maintain your back’s natural curve.
- While sitting, bend your knees so that they’re hip height or slightly higher and keep your feet flat on the ground.
As an added tip, remember that your posture can be seriously affected by how you position your neck and head to look at computer screens or mobile devices. Adjust your computer monitor so that it is visible directly in front of you, and hold your mobile device closer to your face while using your eyes — not your neck or head — to look at it
By Elise Moreau