There is a growing body of research that suggests your physical state affects your mental state. Dr. Erik Pepper at San Francisco State University has researched the relationship between posture and mood and has found significant results between posture and subjective energy. He found that “when people experience a lower subjective energy, they feel less capable of performing a task”.
Examples of poor posture are “sitting collapsed”, hunched over with the head down and “slouched walking”, back curled and looking at the ground. In his study, Dr. Pepper had students either walk in the slouched position or skip down the hallway. The group who skipped reported higher subjective energy levels and more feelings of happiness and positivity. The group with poor posture “often felt sad, lonely, isolated, sleepy”.
If you haven’t heard Dr. Amy Cuddy’s fascinating TED Talk about how body position affects your brain I highly recommend taking the time to listen. In her talk she describes how certain “power poses” boost testosterone and reduce cortisol. Simply standing in the “Wonder Woman” pose (feet spread, hands on hips, head up) for as little as two minutes “lead to these hormonal changes that configure your brain to basically be assertive, confident and comfortable”. Body positions that were described as low power (such as hunched over, taking up as little space as possible) leads to “really stress-reactive, and feeling sort of shut down”.
So what does this mean to you? You probably aren’t skipping around the office, or using power poses before a big meeting. But this research shows the importance of proper ergonomics. If your ill-fitting desk forces you to hunch over while you’re working, research has shown, that it will affect your mood negatively. If you have a workstation that fits to your body, you can start to take advantage of some of these “body hacks” to boost your energy level and improve your attitude. If you can make a task fit you instead of the other way around, you’ll be less prone to repetitive motion injuries and receive a mental boost. Like your mother probably told you 100 times, sit up straight!