Does Improved Posture Make You Happier? Here’s The Science
Do you experience back pain when sitting? There’s a very good chance that your posture plays a role in this pain. But even beyond the pain, there are far reaching implications to our posture. According to science, proper sitting posture and proper standing posture will not only minimize pain and prevent injury but can actually make you happier. Here’s how.
How Improved Posture Makes Us Happier?
One of the fascinating things about posture is that it can have a big impact on our mood. Slouching can actually lead to sad thoughts while a proper sitting posture can lead to feeling happier.
Body Language – How Does Moving Your Body Affect How Others See You And How You See Yourself?
One thing that undeniably affects our happiness is how others see us and think of us. For better or worse, the perception of others tends to impact how we feel. Our body language plays a huge role in how others see us. When we use proper posture, we tend to look more confident and happier. This, in turn, is how others think of us which then makes us feel better about ourselves.
But body language can also more directly affect our own feelings about ourselves. A 2003 study from Ohio State University found that something as simple as nodding or shaking your head can change your opinions. The same study found that hugging yourself can potentially reduce physical pain. If nodding your head can make you feel more positively about something and shaking your head can make you feel more negatively about it, how can better posture change how you feel about yourself? Fixing your posture is the first step in reducing back pain when sitting but maybe giving yourself a hug is a good next step.
Another study published in the journal Biofeedback found that good posture in sitting positions led to a significant increase in both mood and energy levels. Your posture can literally change how you feel. This can even be part of a treatment plan for those suffering from depression.
Hormones – How Does Posture Change Our Hormone Levels?
The way we sit and stand can even change our hormone levels. A study from Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy found that expansive posture led to decreasing cortisol levels and increasing testosterone levels. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and testosterone has been linked to leadership abilities and feelings of confidence. When we employ good posture, we help ourselves feel less stressed as our cortisol levels lower which then leads to feeling happier. This hormonal change led to a significant improvement in confidence and led study participants to feel more powerful. In Cuddy’s enormously popular TED Talk about her research, she said that one’s body language “may shape who you are.” That’s a really simple way of pointing out just how important posture is to how we feel about ourselves.
A study from Cornell’s Vanessa K. Bohns found that these hormonal changes from posture can also increase our pain tolerance.
The results of Cuddy’s research haven’t always been replicated by other studies but most studies do show for sure that contractive postures increase cortisol levels. Contractive postures include slouching, having a rounded back, and other examples of what we usually think of as poor posture. That means that poor posture is literally increasing the amount of stress hormone in your body. If we want to feel happier, reducing the amount of the stress hormone in our bodies is a logical step and proper posture can help you do this.
The Challenges of Posture And How To Fix Yours For A Happiness Boost?
The research is pretty clear that poor posture can contribute to depression and stress while good posture can increase happiness. That said, it’s a bit tricky to define exactly what good posture is. This is because there really is no one best posture. For example, a study from the 90s claimed that sitting at an angle of 110-130 degrees was ideal while a 2007 study claimed that leaning back at 135 degrees was better. So if one wants to be happier and to reduce back pain when sitting or standing, what posture should one adopt?
There is no agreement on what exact angle is ideal. This is likely because the right angle for one person might not be the right angle for another person. Talking about postural angles is also somewhat irrelevant since most people probably aren’t aware of the angle at which they are sitting, at least not to any degree of accuracy.
Perhaps more important than talking about the angle of the back is the idea that the “best posture” is the “next posture.” What does that mean? Keep moving! An overwhelming 86 percent of American workers sit all day at their jobs, and spend at least eight hours sitting each day. The human body just wasn’t designed for this. It is vital to move around regularly. Get up and walk around for a few minutes at least every few hours. When you move from a sitting position to standing and walking around, you’re changing to a more expansive posture which will help trigger those hormonal and body language changes you want.
But what about when you are actually sitting? After all, we all have to sit sometimes. The cliché advice of sitting up straight is accurate. To be more specific, you should try to have a neutral pelvic position, as this will take pressure off the spine and muscles in your back.
If you want to be happier and also reduce back pain when sitting, try focusing on good posture. Also, try to remember not to spend your life sitting but to regularly get up and move around. Give sitting up straight a try and you might find that your pain will decrease while your mood will start improving!
Freya Guerra is the Chief Editor at Posture Profile and a proud mother who’s passionate about posture and giving actionable posture advice. It’s never too late to improve your posture!