Is There Power in Posture?

 “A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.” — Morihei Ueshiba

 

Can you really change your mood with your posture?

 

Dr. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard psychologist, gained notoriety in a TED talk in which she claimed that adopting power poses for just two minutes at the beginning of each day, could change your the way you feel.

 

These power postures could positively impact hormones and risk tolerance, she claimed. Power poses are those of dominance and strength, like hands raised in triumph, or hands on hips in an assertive pose.

 

The idea that your body reflects your psyche, or vice-versa is not new. For example, more than seventy years ago, Dr, Moshe Feldenkrais espoused the notion that posture and movement influenced the mind. Others have shown how the physical and mental are connected. For example, the great Candace Pert showed that mind and body are inextricably linked and connect through molecules called peptides which communicate information about both mental and physical state throughout the body.

 

Her famous statement is “your body is your subconscious.” And a moment’s reflection shows that emotional states are reflected in our posture and bodily movements. Can you laugh with a stiff body? Can you be angry in a relaxed slouch? Our musculature effects our emotions and vice-versa.

 

So there isn’t much doubt that Cuddy and her colleagues are right in general: body posture affects your mood and mood affects your body posture. In one study Cuddy’s group claimed that the power posture stimulates the flow of hormones, like testosterone, and can give you confidence.

 

Others who have tried to replicate Cuddy’s original study didn’t find quite the same powerful results. For example, in a double blind study which used almost five times the number of subjects as the original Cuddy study, Ranehill and her colleagues showed little effect of power poses on either hormones or risk aversion but they did improve subject’s perception of power.

 

A subsequent meta analysis (a review of many different studies, in this case 33 such studies) by Cuddy ‘s group suggested that her research was replicated but later two statisticians, Simmons and Simonsohm, claimed there was very little evidence from the studies in the meta analysis that there was any meaningful relationship between power poses and confidence.

 

To me, these contradictory findings, raise a very important point. I strongly believe that the basic premise is true; posture impacts the psyche and vice-versa.

 

However, you probably need to be in the “right” posture for more than a few minutes a day for it to have a significant impact on your mood. I’m not sure that doing anything for just two minutes a day would have a long-lasting effect.

 

Those initial poses might get the hormones flowing for a short while but to maintain the positive effect, you probably need to be in the right posture regularly to make meaningful differences to your mood. This is important.

 

Poor posture will negatively affect your mood and your self-confidence. However, you don’t just need to pay attention to your posture for a couple of minutes at the beginning of the day, you need to be mindful of it the whole time.

 

This is precisely what we do at Happy Physio. By increasing awareness of the connection between posture and mood, we change our clients’ postures, their mood and yes, even their level of pain.

 

References

  • Carney, Dana R.; Cuddy, Amy J. C.; Yap, Andy J. (October 2010). Power Posing – Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance. Journal of the Association for Psychological Science 21 (10): 1363–1368.
  • Carney, D. R.; Cuddy, A. J. C.; Yap, A. J. (3 April 2015). Review and Summary of Research on the Embodied Effects of Expansive (vs. Contractive) Nonverbal Displays. Psychological Science 26 (5): 657–663.
  • Ranehill, E.; Dreber, A.; Johannesson, M.; Leiberg, S.; Sul, S.; Weber, R. A. (25 March 2015). Assessing the Robustness of Power Posing: No Effect on Hormones and Risk Tolerance in a Large Sample of Men and Women. Psychological Science 26 (5): 653–656.
  • Simmons, J. & Simonsohn, U. (2015). Power Posing: Reassessing the Evidence Behind the Most Popular ted Talk. http://datacolada.org/2015/05/08/37-power-posing-reassessing-the-evidence-behind-the-most-popular-ted-talk