Some 10 million Americans suffer from mild to moderate depression.
Now, a new study has found that many of them could get at least some measure of relief simply by improving their posture.
Researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand had previously performed studies that showed sitting upright instead of slumped reduces stress.
The scientists noticed that patients suffering depression typically sat in a more slumped posture than non-depressed people did. If better sitting posture eased stress, they wondered if it would also reduce depression.1
The scientists gathered 61 patients with mild to moderate depression. Researchers randomly divided the participants into two groups. One group was asked to sit normally, that is, slouched. The other group was told to sit upright with straight backs, level shoulders, and their neck and head straight. Researchers used physiotherapy tape on their backs to help keep them in an upright posture.2
The researchers then had the two groups participate in two tests. First, they delivered a five-minute speech. Then they counted backwards from 1,022 in steps of 13.
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Improve Your Mood with Better Posture
In both tests, the upright posture group outscored the slouch group in observable markers of depression. They showed more enthusiasm and less fatigue. They were more outgoing, exhibited less fear, and spoke more words during their speech. All of these behaviors and emotions are signs their depression was reduced.3
Dr. Elizabeth Broadbent is an associate professor of psychological medicine at Auckland University. She is co-author of the study.
Dr. Broadbent noted that subjects sitting upright had “more energy, had less negative mood, and were less self-focused.”
She added: “Compared to sitting in a slumped position, sitting upright can make you feel more proud after a success, increase your persistence at an unsolvable task, and make you feel more confident in your thoughts.”4
For severe, disabling depression, sitting posture is not likely to make much of a difference. But for mild or moderate depression, sitting up straight may help patients manage their mood and be more productive, Dr. Broadbent said.
“Sitting upright can make you feel more alert and enthusiastic, feel less fearful, and have higher self-esteem,” she said.
Her findings are due to be published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.5
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