How our minds re­spond to hav­ing a good pos­ture the men­tal link

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Kusal Goonewar­dena

When think­ing about pos­ture, we tend to con­cen­trate on the phys­i­cal con­se­quences – bad backs, headaches, pain and so on. But did you know that re­search has found your pos­ture also in­flu­ences your men­tal state?


Ob­serve an ath­lete’s body lan­guage when they are train­ing or at a meet and see how they use strong, pos­i­tive body lan­guage. Elite ath­letes are the masters at stand­ing tall and will of­ten adopt ‘power poses’, such as stand­ing with hands on hips (a la Won­der Woman).

Many of the elite ath­letes I work with have in­cor­po­rated power poses into their rou­tine – for ex­am­ple, in the morn­ing, they will de­vote two min­utes to sit­ting or stand­ing strongly. They recog­nise that to reap the ben­e­fits from good pos­ture, you need to make it a healthy habit.

While you may see elite ath­letes hunched over with ex­haus­tion or pain, you al­most never see them adopt­ing neg­a­tive body lan­guage such as slouch­ing or closed-off stances with arms folded. This is be­cause they un­der­stand the link be­tween neg­a­tive body lan­guage and how it may de­tract from per­for­mance. By con­trast the open, up­right pos­ture you see in elite ath­letes, only partly re­sults from phys­i­cal fit­ness; it is also es­sen­tial in cre­at­ing the right men­tal­ity to per­form.

Sev­eral re­cent stud­ies have shown that good pos­ture can have a pow­er­ful im­pact, par­tic­u­larly on our mind. A san Fran­cisco uni­ver­sity study found that adopt­ing a more up­right body pos­ture can im­prove mood and en­ergy lev­els. The study also found that a slouched or poor body pos­ture can lead to ‘feel­ings of de­pres­sion or de­creased en­ergy’.

This study linked pos­ture with pre­vi­ous stud­ies on move­ment, which showed that move­ment

You don’t need to be an elite ath­lete to ben­e­fit from Good Pos­ture.

and ex­er­cise ‘open up bi­o­log­i­cal path­ways that in­crease hap­pi­ness and en­ergy’. These same feel­ings can be ac­cessed when peo­ple adopt more open, up­right pos­tures.

so­cial psy­chol­o­gist amy Cuddy, a pro­fes­sor and re­searcher at Har­vard Busi­ness School, takes it one step fur­ther. Her re­search has showed that just adopt­ing high power or low power poses for a pe­riod of two min­utes has a mea­sured hor­monal ef­fect.

Ms Cuddy’s re­search found that high power poses – good, strong pos­ture – leads to higher testos­terone, which is linked with higher con­fi­dence lev­els. High power poses also lower the ‘stress hor­mone’, cor­ti­sol. Only two min­utes is enough to make you feel more as­sertive and con­fi­dent.

The op­po­site is also true: adopt­ing low power pos­ture leads to lower testos­terone lev­els and higher cor­ti­sol. Cor­rect­ing poor pos­ture is among the most im­por­tant things any­body can do. Good, strong pos­ture leads to higher testos­terone & lower cor­ti­sol. Both of these stud­ies are big on the ‘fake it till you make it’ prin­ci­ple, show­ing you can es­sen­tially trick your mind into ben­e­fit­ing from the good pos­ture vibes just by adopt­ing a more open and up­right stance.

There are other ob­vi­ous phys­i­cal ben­e­fits from good pos­ture:

• E.g. Good pos­ture is linked with bet­ter breath­ing, which en­ables bet­ter con­cen­tra­tion. The brain needs about 20% of our oxy­gen sup­ply and some experts es­ti­mate pos­ture makes up to a 30% dif­fer­ence in our breath­ing ca­pac­ity.

• Good pos­ture is also good for backs. I see peo­ple ev­ery day who suf­fer phys­i­cal prob­lems ow­ing to their pos­ture – at least 85% of in­juries can be re­lated to in­cor­rect pos­ture. Sit­ting pos­ture has be­come the


most im­por­tant to ad­dress as so many of us live more seden­tary life­styles.

The im­por­tance of mak­ing good pos­ture a habit:

• It’s pos­si­ble to cor­rect pos­ture through rep­e­ti­tion by us­ing cues to ‘grow tall’. For ex­am­ple, you may re­mind your­self to grow tall ev­ery time you check your phone and your emails or you may part­ner up with a buddy so you can help each other. Be­fore you know it, you have ac­cu­mu­lated enough rep­e­ti­tions to make good pos­ture a habit with long-last­ing pos­i­tive health ef­fects.

• If you wish to take it one step fur­ther, con­sider adopt­ing the power poses, as dis­cussed above. Just two min­utes a day in a power pose – e.g. the Won­der Woman pose, stand­ing open and up­right, with hands on hips. The best time to adopt the power pose is early morn­ing if pos­si­ble.

In sum­mary:

• Re­cent stud­ies show that good pos­ture pro­motes men­tal well-be­ing

• Adopt­ing sim­ple power poses can have a greater im­pact than you think

• The key is mak­ing healthy pos­ture ha­bit­ual

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.