Cuddy was battered by her peers for peddling flawed science and for seeking fame off the back of one study.The current status quo seems to be that posture matters, and though we don’t exactly know why, from what we can tell it’s probably not the hormones.This suggests that it is probably an innate rather than a learned behavior.By noticing your posture and deliberately adjusting it, it’s possible to hack into this automatic system, change your posture and change the message that’s being sent to the how I feel now chat room of the brain.To this end, Elizabeth Broadbent, a health psychologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, has been investigating how changing posture may change the biological way that we deal with stress.Previous work had shown that people sitting in a slouched posture find it easier to remember negative words from a list, while sitting up straight favored recall of positive words.This reliably increases heart rate, blood pressure and sweaty palms and, if a person happens to be in a bad mood already, it makes them feel considerably worse.But, Broadbent’s studies suggest, sitting or standing up straight provides a buffer against this kind of stress.It promoted a more positive mental attitude, borne out by higher mood ratings, lower fatigue and less anxiety.What’s more, when she and her colleagues analyzed the content of the volunteers’ speeches, they found that people in the good posture group also spoke in the first person less often, suggesting that they were less focused on themselves.In a separate study, also by Broadbent’s group, people were given the same stressful test while walking upright on a treadmill or while looking at their feet.This time, their physiological state was also measured.Under normal circumstances, giving a speech at short notice reliably increases heart rate and blood pressure and makes people sweat more.And yet, the study showed, doing so while walking with a straight back and head up significantly reduced blood pressure and sweating, compared with a slumped group.It also made the test subjects feel more alert and less tired.This particular experiment couldn’t say whether it was because standing up straight alone reduces blood pressure by default or because of the impact of standing up on the stress response, or both.And, whatever the precise mechanism, the finding that standing up straight buffers stress is something that we can all put to use very easily.Broadbent speculates that there is almost certainly more than one thing going on here.This clearly affects what you see and what you have the opportunity to respond to and, she speculates, may direct your focus inwards.Simply looking around at the world automatically demands more interaction.And then there are the probable physical effects of slumping on the heart, lungs and pipework of the body, which may affect blood pressure and the amount of oxygen being pumped around and have secondary effects on energy levels.There are more organized ways to get the same thing, of course.Upright and expansive postures are a key feature of yoga and tai chi, both of which are key areas of focus for Peter Wayne, who leads the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School.Wayne is both a tai chi instructor and a researcher, first in evolutionary biology and more recently in holistic medicine.Wilson, who in a lecture on the evolution of body language showed a series of images of people from around the world doing expansive victory postures.It just made me cry because I was already teaching tai chi, says Wayne.I started thinking maybe that’s why there’s all these shapes in tai chi.These forms are not the means of obtaining a right state of mind.He came to study the stress system almost by accident, after&
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