Depression is a complex condition that does not have a one-size-fits-all solution, no matter what the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture antidepressants would like for you to believe. Many people find that a holistic approach can help their symptoms improve, and one factor that is gaining a lot of attention for its ability to influence mood is posture.
A recent study has thrust good posture into the spotlight as a possible way to treat depression. While slouching has already been demonstrated to negatively impact a healthy person’s mood, the University of Auckland study is actually the first one to look into how posture can help those suffering from moderate depression.
Lead researcher Dr. Elizabeth Broadbent said that sitting upright can spur people to be more persistent with unsolvable tasks, more confident in their thoughts, and prouder following their successes compared to being in a slumped position. Moreover, it can make people feel more enthusiastic and alert and less fearful, and give them higher self-esteem following stressful tasks.
Participants in the study were divided into two groups, one of which had to sit straight by leveling their shoulders, pulling their shoulder blades downward and together, straightening their backs, and extending the top of their heads toward the ceiling. The researchers placed tape on their backs in order to help them stay in the right position. From that position, they underwent a high-pressure task aimed at measuring stress. They were asked to give five-minute speeches that would be judged, and to add to the pressure, they were told to count backwards from 1,022 in blocks of 13.
When asked to fill out questionnaires about their mood and feelings at random points during the test, those who sat up straight reported more enthusiasm and energy. Moreover, they were better able to articulate themselves and they spoke more during the test.
Dr. Broadbent got the idea for the study based on observations of her own mood. She noticed that she was walking with slumped shoulders and looking at the ground when she found herself feeling glum. After looking up and putting her shoulders back, she immediately felt better. Her study’s results backed this notion, but she cautioned that more research is needed into which cases such a strategy might prove useful in treating. Her study will be published in the March edition of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.
Another recent study, this one from San Francisco State University, found a connection between having poor posture and depression. In that study, Professor of Health Education Dr. Erik Peper discovered that walking in a slouched position could lead to feelings of depression and low energy, and this can be reversed simply by walking more upright. He also used questionnaires to rate subjects’ depression levels, and those who were more depressed in general reported much lower levels of energy after walking slouched than those who were not depressed.
This ties in with another popular holistic treatment for depression; yoga. With its focus on the body, mind, and spirit, it can help alleviate depression and anxiety. Deep breathing is paired with certain postures and poses to bring about positive effects. While different styles of yoga offer various levels of intensity, it has generally been found to boost people’s mood. One study found that women’s depression scores increased by 50 percent after three months of two 90-minute yoga classes a week, while their anxiety scores rose by 30 percent and their overall well-being climbed by 65 percent.
New studies are constantly emerging that show promising alternative treatments for depression. While everyone’s experience is different, it is always worth trying options like improved posture, yoga, meditation, art therapy, and music therapy that do not have dangerous side effects before exploring other options.