How to Pull Yourself Out of a Slump


November 10, 2014

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Sitting up straight or standing tall can improve your energy, your mood, and even your health by Carol Kinsey Goman

I invite you to try this right now: Sit in a chair with your legs crossed or close together, bring your elbows into your waist, clasp your hands together and place them on your lap, then round your shoulders and drop your head. Now say, “I am confident and powerful.”

Well … you don’t look it.

Closed postures reflect low power. In that slumped posture—regardless of anything you said—most people would judge you as submissive and powerless. Just as important, in that position you would begin to actually feel less confident and sure of yourself.

An Ohio State University study found that people who were slumped over their desks were less likely to believe the positive comments they wrote about their qualifications for a job. Those who sat up straight were more likely to accept their own statements as valid.

Blame it on “embodied cognition,” the idea that the mind is not only connected to the body but that the body influences the mind.

The science behind this has been documented in various studies including that at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools in which researchers looked at the physical and emotional effects of holding both high and low power poses.

High power posers (who held a “Superman” or “Wonder Woman” posture with legs apart, shoulders back, and hands on hips) not only looked more powerful, they felt it—the result of higher levels of testosterone, the power and dominance hormone, and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

Low power posers, on the other hand, experienced significant drops in testosterone and increases in cortisol—which left them looking and feeling less powerful and more vulnerable.

Slumping may even make you feel depressed. A study at Queens University in which subjects walked on a treadmill found that those who were encouraged to walk with a more slumped body posture remembered more negative words on a follow-up test. Those who walked with an upright posture recalled more positive words. To the researchers, this was evidence that assuming a “happier” posture helped create happier people.

This agrees with findings from research at Ohio State University that assessed how posture affected an individual’s ability to generate positive and negative thoughts. Sitting up straight, participants found it easier to conjure up positive thoughts and memories.

Posture also affects energy level and productivity. Ninety-six computer users employed at a municipal utility provider volunteered to be evaluated in the workplace. A functional assessment of posture, lung function, and strength was performed wearing a PostureShirt–a form-fitting garment from Alignmed with controlled stretch neuro-bands that gently pull the shoulders back, and which in turn, enhances alignment of the spine and improves forward head and shoulder posture.

The results were impressive. Postural fatigue and muscular fatigue decreased by 21 percent and 29 percent, respectively, and energy level and productivity increased by 20 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

When workers are fatigued they not only make mistakes and deplete energy, they are more susceptible to certain kinds of injuries. Organizations concerned with wellness (and rising worker’s compensation costs) are taking notice—ordering ergonomic chairs, offering yoga and other exercise classes, and investing in sensory devices that tell workers when their posture starts to sag. And when Bill Shultz (the president of Alignmed) spoke at a recent worker’s compensation conference, the audience was interested to hear about the PostureShirt’s simple solution to workplace fatigue and productivity that also addresses some of the workplace injuries that can be controlled.

If you spend the day slumped over a keyboard, your body starts to tell your mind that you are less—less powerful, less positive, less productive. So pulling yourself out of that slump by sitting up straight or standing tall can improve your energy, you mood, and even your health.

Troy Media columnist Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an executive coach, consultant, and international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. She’s the author of 12 books including “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help—or Hurt—How You Lead” and (her latest) “The Truth About Lies in the Workplace: How to Spot Liars and What to Do About Them.” Copyright TroyMedia.com.