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The easiest, quickest way to get out of the dumps

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Does the grayness of winter… an unfulfilling job… a disappointing relationship… an unsuccessful diet… or just a bad day bring you down?

Well, there may be a sure-fire way to improve your mood quickly — without a lot of fanfare, prescriptions or counseling sessions…

All you have to do is follow some advice your mom likely gave you a million times when you were growing up…

Sit up straight.

Now, your mom probably told you to sit up straight because it makes you look more presentable and keeps you from developing a hunchback. But what your mom most likely didn’t know to tell you is that sitting up can almost instantly put you in a better mood…

Poor posture puts you in a poor mood

As it turns out, your posture and your mood are more closely connected than you (or your mom) probably ever realized.

Just see what it did for a group of participants at the University of Auckland, who gave it a try…

Even though each member of the group was chosen because they experienced symptoms and exhibited signs of depression, they were able to break free from the shackles of their negative mental state simply by sitting up straight.

Here’s what happened: Participants were asked to perform two stressful tasks that would likely aggravate their depressive symptoms (giving a graded speech and counting backward from 1,022 by 13). Half of the participants were asked to sit up straight while performing these tasks and the other half were allowed to maintain their normal posture. And this simple change had a remarkable impact on their mood…

Participants who sat up straight were more enthusiastic and energetic after the tasks were over. And if you’ve ever suffered from depression, you know energy and enthusiasm are two things you could use a lot more of when you’re depressed.

Embracing embodied cognition

Posture’s positive mood-boosting affects are not necessarily anything new, even though you may not have heard about it.

In fact, there’s even a name for the phenomenon. It’s called embodied cognition, which is just a fancy way of saying that your body position affects your brain chemistry.

Here are some examples of embodied cognition that have been demonstrated over the years:

  • Sitting up straight can make you feel more confident, while slouching can make you feel helpless and stressed.
  • Sitting up straight can help you think more positively.
  • Hugging yourself can relieve physical pain.
  • Smiling can make you feel happier. It may be hard to believe, but this works. The trick is to fake a real smile – even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Adopting “power poses” (like the ones in this video) can help you feel more confident and less stressed. According to male health expert Craig Cooper, a power pose that boosts confidence can even help men elevate their testosterone levels.

So next time you’re feeling low, sit (or stand) tall, crack a smile (even if it’s fake) or give yourself a big bear hug. Your brain will take the cue from your body and feel happier, more confident and ready to take on whatever challenges the world (or the winter) throws at you.

Sources:
  1. “Study results suggest improving posture may help reduce depression.” MedicalXpress. https://medicalxpress.com. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  2. Carissa Wilkes, et al. “Upright posture improves affect and fatigue in people with depressive symptoms.” Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 2017.
  3. “Posture can affect your mood: Northwestern University study.” WGN TV. http://wgntv.com. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  4. “How posture influences mood, energy, thoughts.” San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  5. “Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are.” Ted. http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
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