It's pretty normal to find people slouching and slumping through the workday. After all, gravity isn't your friend, and if we're overwhelmed or working hard, it's difficult to focus on how we're carrying ourselves as we concentrate on what's in front of us. But science is confirming over and over again that improving your posture is one of the simplest ways to feel better, be happier, and be more productive.
What the research is telling us
In 2010, researchers from Columbia and Harvard Universities found that people who assumed open, expansive postures felt more powerful and had a greater appetite for risk. Additional work led by Erik Peper revealed that individuals who assumed more upright posture not only enjoyed greater strength from the biomechanical body shift, but also were better able to remember positive memories and thoughts. Similar results, including elevated moods, was found in a 2015 study led by Shwetha Nair. In that study, researchers concluded that sitting upright is a simple strategy to help build stress resistance.
The 'why' and the 'how'
Ok, so. Why does good posture produce such amazing results? In essence, the mind-body connection works in both directions. Dana Carney of the Columbia study asserts that, when you take a powerful pose, the physical behavior sends a signal that essentially tells the brain that you are safe and can act with confidence, ultimately boosting your brain power. That message also changes your hormones. Testosterone, which is associated with focus, attention and physical strength, goes up. Cortisol, the stress hormone associated with the fight-or-flight response and a myriad of health issues when kept chronically high, goes down. This profile is connected to both disease resistance and leadership abilities. And researchers say that it takes just two minutes for this change to happen. These findings are what led Amy Cuddy to famously recommend that people fake it till they make it, using body posture to produce the feelings of happiness and power that can help us work better.
Convinced? Here's the American Chiropractic Association's quick primer on how to bring your posture A game.