At least since your very first job interview you've probably been aware that your body language has a huge impact on how others see you. Standing tall, having a firm handshake, and holding your head high will help you win trust and get the gig, a parent or career counselor no doubt informed you.
And, of course, they were right. Expert after expert confirms that your body language sends powerful signals to others, but what perhaps they didn't know is that your posture also sends powerful signals to you as well. So says findings recently published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.
Walk Yourself Happy
Everyone knows that your mood affects your carriage--you can easily tell someone if is bummed by their slumped shoulders and shuffling walk--but the scientists behind the research wanted to know if the converse is also true. Does your carriage and posture affect your mood?
To find out they asked study subjects to walk on a treadmill while trying to match either a glum or cheerful walking style, with a real-time gauge giving the volunteers feedback on how well they were achieving a typical depressed or happy gait. While these subjects were either trudging or bouncing along, they were also shown a mixed list of words associated with positive and negative emotions.
Afterwards, the scientists asked the study participants to recall as many of the words they had seen as possible. Those nudged to walk happier, it turns out, remembered more cheerful words. Those who had walked in a depressed style, more gloomy ones. The conclusion? How we walk not only reflects our mood but actively changes it too.
Putting the Findings to Use
The researchers were interested in this insight as a possible therapy for the clinically depressed. Those suffering depression have been shown to have a bias towards remembering the negative (which, of course, does nothing to lift their spirits), so perhaps encouraging them to move in a happier way "can break that self-perpetuating cycle," suggested study co-author Nikolaus Troje.
But the usefulness of the findings need not be limited to those with a diagnosable mood problem. If you're suffering from garden-variety glumness, this research suggests simply forcing yourself into to walk in a more cheerful way is likely to help you feel happier (try mixing this suggestion together with other scientific findings that getting out in nature is a powerful mood booster for even stronger benefits).
The research is also in line other previous studies showing that faking cheerfulness in other ways can actually help to lift your mood, whether that means forcing a smile or meeting up with friends after a rough day, even if that's the last thing you feel like doing when you pick up the phone to make arrangements.
Have you noticed that your body language affects your mood?