Stand straight and feel better
“ Don’t slouch!” was the stern admonishment to those of us who did not sit or stand straight from Mrs. Broughton, my eighth grade teacher. She told us that we would perform better if we stood and sat proudly. As it turns out, she was right. Not only did I sit up straighter and eventually get an “A” in her class, but years later now read of studies of posture and its effects on emotions that reveal the truth of her teaching. Holding your head high and throwing your shoulders back can help you feel better in many situations.
Simone Schnall at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom and James Laird at Atlanta’s Clark University have conducted studies that show that adopting postures and facial expressions associated with happiness leads to more positive autobiographical memories than those who embody sadness or anger. Better posture will not remove the sting of getting laid off, but it may help to create rosier interpretations of everyday, neutral circumstances, such as introducing yourself to a group of strangers.
Paula Niedenthal is a psychology professor at Université Blaise Pascal in France who has researched the relationship between posture and emotion. She states, “ People with their chins down and their shoulders rounded are going to be less receptive to potentially good information.” So sit erect when receiving praise and it will intensify the flow.
Scientists are also discovering that neurons involved in sensations, motor functions and emotional memories are highly interconnected. This means that an act like smiling can activate the emotional state that usually accompanies it. Put a smile on your face and you encourage neurons to mimic the patterns they create when your grin is uncontrollable. In other words, if you are putting on an act for others to see, you just might end up fooling yourself, too.
To become a more upright citizen, straighten your spine, roll your shoulders back and raise your chin. For added confidence, put your hands on your hips. The most potent mood effects occur when you use both facial expressions and posture. Get in the habit of doing periodic posture drills, like every time you hang up the phone. And finally, of course, don’t slouch!