When people think about managing mental health conditions, posture is not the first thing that comes to mind. More research is showing how a person holds their body impacts their mind and how they feel. A clear state of mind can affect posture, even if it is less obvious that posture can affect state of mind. It is a two-way street. Changing body posture can change how a person thinks and feels, improve well-being and maybe even change a person’s life.

Role of Posture

Posture can affect our biochemistry and impacts people psychologically, including:

  • Mood
  • Motivation
  • Energy level
  • Stress level
  • Decision-making

Different postures can impact the body’s anatomy and physiology. Our own behavior and way we hold ourselves is considered nonverbal communication. Many postures are universal and thought to be hardwired in how people respond.

Mental Health Recovery

There are two ways to view posture as part of a mental health recovery process. The first is to change posture habits. This includes:

  • Standing or sitting in a slouched, hunched position for a few minutes. Notice the feelings and thoughts that emerge
  • Sit or stand up straight and upright for a few moments. Notice the feelings and thoughts that emerge

In a slouched position, people often not feeling insecure or unsure of themselves versus sitting up straight. Good posture is considered a way to alert others of confidence and self-assuredness.

Healthy Poses

When trying to come up with some better ways of sitting and being present with yourself, these might help give a head start:

  • Victory posture. This is a posture of pride and achievement. Power postures are considered ‘victory postures’ which involve taking up space with the body. How to: raise arms above the head and make a V shape. Hold the posture for two minutes. Experiment with how wide the ‘V’ is and whether you feel your hands clenched or open. What it does: increases mood and energy, builds confidence and helps increase mood.
  • Smiling posture: this posture tricks the brain into thinking you are healthy. In other words, we do not smile when we are happy, we are happy because we smile. When you’re seriously depressed, it can feel like a challenge but smiling can increase mood even a little, which is helpful when you feel down. Tip: open the mouth and push the corners up, even a little bit. Try watching funny videos and things that make you happy. What it does: increases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.

These are only two of many positions to try when seeking ways of building peace and joy in your life. Posture is a key component of a healthy lifestyle, it just takes focus and patience to build it into how your body holds itself and, ultimately, how you feel in recovery.

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