By Sandra Smit
To understand how posture influences our emotional state, it is important to know what is meant with posture. According to Richard Brennan (2012), posture can be defined as the relationship of one or more parts of the body to the rest. He further explains that it is the outward expression of how we feel inside.
Looking down closes the front of the body in a protective manner, as in the foetal position. As we close ourselves up, we start to disconnect with the world around us, feeling isolated from other people. As the feeling of isolation increases, we lose hope and start to withdraw even further. A chain reaction follows where we fall deeper into a feeling of hopelessness (depression). Looking down will also create misalignment of the various body parts, using more energy to prevent us from toppling over and causing our bodies to tire easily.
Walking with a slouched or despondent posture can lead to a feeling of depression or decreased energy, according to new research done by health educator, Eric Peper at the San Francisco State University, as cited by Wood (2015). Peper found that by simply altering body posture to a more upright position can improve mood and energy levels. It also increases confidence (Bushak, 2015).
Not only does posture influence emotions and energy levels, it alters the chemical composition in a person’s body. Recent studies show that people that display high-power poses have elevated testosterone levels (hormone linked to adaptive response to challenges) and a reduction of cortisol (stress hormone), resulting in feelings of power (Carney, et al., 2010). A closed posture where the body is collapsed, shoulders hunched forward and head facing down would have the opposite effect. Testosterone levels will decrease, cortisol levels increase and you will struggle to move out of your emotional brain. As anxiety increase, a feeling of hopelessness will escalate as will a feeling of depression.
Altering your body to create an open posture where the body is stretched out, spine aligned and by tilting your head slightly back will enable you to access your cognitive brain. These postural changes could potentially improve a person’s general health and well-being (Carney, et al., 2010).
If you repetitively move the same way, you are embedding a neurological network (Sisgold, 2015) that will influence your emotional well-being. Next time you feel down and hopeless, change your posture and feel the difference it makes.
If you repetitively move the same way, you are embedding a neurological network – Sisgold
Mind Moves (De Jager, 2009) is a movement programme that can be utilised on a daily basis to build neurological networks and improve posture. The following Mind Moves can be done in a controlled manner, 3 times per day, if possible.
Fling the arms wide open while breathing in deeply and slowly. Close the arms over the chest in a hug, breathe out deeply and slowly. The parent may simultaneously hug from behind. This move boosts relaxation, rhythmic breathing and a sense of wellbeing.
In order to improve posture, we need to strengthen our core muscles. When our core muscles are weak, our spine doesn’t have adequate support to maintain perfect posture.
Step 1 and 2
Lie on the back. Slowly move the left arm and leg as if tied together and turn the head look at the left hand. Slowly move the right arm and leg as if tied together and turn the head to look at the right hand. Repeat ten times.
Step 3 and 4
Remain on the back; repeat step 1, but this time slowly move the head in the opposite direction of the extended arm and leg. Repeat ten times.
Step 5 and 6
Still on the back, tie a blue ribbon to the left arm and right leg, and a red ribbon to the right arm and left leg. Bring red arm and leg together and extend the other arm and leg without any head movement. Then bring the blue arm and leg together and extend the other arm and leg without any head movement. Repeat ten times. Relax.
Once step 1 – 3 can be performed without difficulty (may take weeks), crawl on all fours and turn the head to the left and right.
Once step 7 is done with ease, ask the child to stand up and do the bilateral crawl while the eyes turn up, down, left, right; focus near and far. NO head turning allowed.
Lie flat on the back, spreading the arms wide and raising the knees to hip level. Slowly rock the knees to the left until the left knee touches the floor, and then to the right until the right knee touches the floor. The shoulders and lower back should stay glued to the floor. This movement strengthens the core muscles while separating the shoulder action from the hip action to promote sitting, focus and concentration. It also forms the basis for crossing the lateral midline.
Imagine that the spine is a string of beads. Pull the imaginary string above the head until the beads hang in a straight line. Place the palm of the hand against the forehead, pushing firmly for a count of eight. Remember to breathe. Alternate the position of the hand to the back, the left and the right side of the head, repeating the process first with one hand and then the other.
Brennan, R., 2012. Change your posture change your life, London: Watkins Publishing.
Bushak, L., 2015. Medical Daily. [Online]
Available at: http://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/why-you-should-stand-straight-benefits-good-posture-325598
[Accessed 28 08 2015].
Carney, D., Cuddy, A. & Yap, A., 2010. Association for Psychological Science. [Online]
Available at: https://www0.gsb.columbia.edu/mygsb/faculty/research/pubfiles/467/po
[Accessed 12 9 2015].
De Jager, M., 2009. Mind Moves – moves that mend the mind. Johannesburg: Mind Moves Institute.
Sisgold, S., 2015. Whole body intelligence. New York : Rodale.
Wood, J., 2015. PsychCentral. [Online]
Available at: http://www.psychcentral.com/news/2012/10/16/poor-postur-can-affect-mood-energy/
[Accessed 12 6 2015].