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Posture and your mind

In the previous post I mentioned the physical benefits of good posture, but the way we hold ourselves is also linked with our state of mind.

We all know that mood influences posture, so people who feel depressed are more likely to be hunched over and people who feel upbeat are more likely to stand and walk tall. 

But if you’ve followed the work of American social science researcher Amy Cuddy, you’d know she argues that posture also influences mood — for example, adopting a confident posture makes us feel that way. 

Her 2012 TED talk on this topic is one of the most watched around the world. In 2015 she followed it up with a book entitled Presence: Bring Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. 

She’s collected data to show that the way we carry ourselves affects the way we feel about ourselves, the way we relate to others, and presumably, the way others relate to us.

Apparently (and disturbingly), by age 4 children associate expansive (confident) postures with boys and more contracted (i.e. less confident) postures with girls. 

This becomes very relevant as we get older. If we lose strength and get into the habit of leaning forward, does that encourage us to feel less confident? 

If our posture communicates to others that we’re less confident and competent, and we start living into their (now lowered) expectations, do we unwittingly create a downward spiral?

American author, the late Maya Angelou, said, “Stand up straight, and realise who you are, that you tower over your circumstances”.

If posture changes the way we feel about ourselves, it makes sense to deliberately practice standing tall. It’s a bonus mentally as well as physically.

The photo is one I used in a post last year. It’s of a man named Wang Deshun, who became famous when he walked bare-chested in a Chinese fashion parade. He’s 80 but he’s fit and strong, so he doesn’t stand or walk the way we expect an 80-year-old to. 

God willing, one day we’ll all be 80. It’s useful to remember that we have a big say in how we’ll be when we get there. 

(PS. I wanted to include a link again to the great video of Wang on the catwalk, but he’s been turned into such a hero that You Tube is now bursting with footage of him espousing his philosophy on life. So much so that I can’t find the original video. Doesn’t that say something. An 80-year-old goes to the gym and looks fit so we turn him into a wonder-person. We’ll have made progress when that doesn’t happen!) 

Photo Source: Quan Yajun

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017 | Rhonda Anderson