Fix Posture To Eliminate Stress
Christopher Philip

More and more research has been added which supports the idea that posture is crucial in our mood, emotional well being and now, our ability to cope with stressful events.

A new study led by Shwetha Nair, University of Auckland has found that an upright posture produces higher self-esteem, more arousal, better mood, and lower fear, compared to a slumped posture.

One unique finding, however, along with the other positive benefits, is that an upright posture helps mitigate feelings of stress.

In the study, the backs of participants were strapped with physiotherapy tape to hold either an upright posture or a slumped posture throughout. One group was asked to sit on a stool with their head bowed, shoulders rounded and back stooped. The other group was asked to keep their back erect with their shoulders straight and back. The subject’s heart rate was also monitored throughout the study.

Next the subjects underwent a reading task and stress test and filled out a variety of questionnaires to assess their overall mood.

Results showed that the upright participants reported feeling more enthusiastic, excited, and strong. The slumped participants, in contrast, reported feeling more fearful, hostile, nervous, quiet, still, passive, dull, sleepy, and sluggish.

Also noteworthy is that the upright participants reported higher self-esteem and reduced fear compared to slumped participants. The upright participants use more words in total in their assessments and use fewer first person pronouns with fewer negative emotions words and more positive emotions words. The upright posture group also had a higher pulse pressure response during the stressor and during recovery, than those in the slumped posture.

Overall, the upright seated posture helped the participants face stress while maintaining self-esteem and reduced negative mood. Interestingly, the upright posture also helps to reduce self-focus and increases the rate of speech.

The authors conclude that an upright sitting posture may be a simple way to help build resistance to stress which fits in with the theory of embodied cognition.

While it is unknown how exactly posture plays into the observed positive effects the researchers suggest that it may be due to “activation of the skeletomuscular, neuroendocrine, and autonomic nervous systems, and also through self-perception.”

Future research is required to uncover the exact mechanisms.

Resources

Nair, Shwetha; Mark Sagar; John Sollers; III, Nathan Consedine and Elizabeth Broadbent. Do Slumped and Upright Postures Affect Stress Responses?
A Randomized Trial. Health Psychology. 2015. 34(6): 632–641.