Square Your Shoulders: Posture as Self-Care

01.02.2019 |

Episode #6 of the course Mindfulness: Self-care for daily life by Dr. Kimberlee Bethany Bonura



Try this quick activity.

First: Sit down and schlump over. Slouch and fold. Cave in your chest. Shlumpy, caved, folded. Like you’ve been vegging on the couch for an eight-hour TV series binge or an epic video game session in front of your computer. Sit like this for a few minutes. And then consider how you feel.

Second: Stand up. Spread your feet apart about hip width. Roll your shoulders down and back, to open up your chest. Lift your chin a little bit. Put your hands on your hips in a power pose. If you want, channel Superman and shout out heroically, “Dun da dun!” How do you feel now?

Here’s the thing: We sit and stand certain ways because of how we’re feeling. When we’re tired, run down, sad, depressed, or feeling sorry for ourselves, we end up caving in, collapsing into our chests. And when we’re feeling brave, confident, and proud, we tend to open up, lift up, and strut our stuff.

Here is the million-dollar question: Does Superman have good posture because he feels invincible, or does he feel invincible because he has good posture?


Change Your Posture, Change Your Mood

The relationship is cyclical. Our mood shapes our posture, but our posture has the power to shape our mood!

Research by social psychologist Amy Cuddy has shown that standing with good posture—like Superman and Wonder Woman—can actually boost our self-confidence [1]. This can be particularly useful at work and school, to help us feel confident and competent in these settings.

Other research shows that walking posture can affect your mood. Walking while slouched led to feelings of depression, but skipping in good posture made individuals feel better and more energetic [2]. For participants who had a tendency toward depression, the effect of posture on mood was even stronger.

One study of individuals with depression found that posture worsened when the individuals were experiencing a bout of depression [3]. Other research found that among individuals with depression, a posture intervention could actually boost mood and energy [4]. Making an effort to consciously improve your posture can improve how you feel and increase your energy. Adjusting your body can help you adjust your mindset.


Posture Check

Good posture is comfortable. It isn’t folded over, but it isn’t ramrod straight like a board either. In good posture, the spine has natural curves, weight is evenly distributed, and the head feels comfortable. You can find an overview on good posture for back health from The Cleveland Clinic at the end of the lesson. You can also find a link to a simple two-minute video posture check on YouTube, which might be helpful as you take a look at your own posture.


Simple and Effective Self-Care

My point throughout much of this course has been that self-care can be simple and still effective. You don’t have to spend tons of money or take drastic action. Focusing on core principles, like how you breathe and how you stand, can improve your sense of wellness, your mood, and your energy. Don’t let the idea of self-care feel overwhelming or like just another thing on your to-do list. Remember that these small changes can have profound effects. Your physical and psychological health matters, and it’s important for you to make time to take care of yourself. The essence of self-care is recognizing your own inherent value and keeping yourself on your list of priorities.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at how the simple orange can be another effective technique for reducing stress and taking good care of yourself.


Recommended reading

Back Health and Posture


Recommended video

Posture Check with Kimberlee Bethany Bonura, PhD



[1] Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are (video)

[2] Research on Posture Yields Insight into Treating Depression

[3] Posture and Body Image in Individuals with Major Depressive Disorder

[4] Upright Posture Improves Affect and Fatigue in People with Depressive Symptoms


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