The mind and the body are connected, we know this and may call to mind information about the gut microbiome or experiencing endorphins after a workout. Yet, the mind-body connection goes beyond that. What if how we position our body influences how we think about ourselves?
To that question I wholeheartedly would say yes, it does. Here’s why:
In my time as a high school athlete, I had a coach named Brenda, and before any throw she would always tell me “Walk to the front of the circle stand tall and proud, look out at where you want the ball to go then begin to set up for your throw”. I was reluctant to do this, I didn’t think there was a purpose to it. At the time, I didn’t understand Coach Brenda’s reasoning for standing and looking out at the field to see where I wanted to throw, I wanted to just get in there and throw the ball. Yet being a good athlete, I listened to my coach and at the next competition I stood tall and proud at the front of the circle and threw the furthest throw I had ever thrown in the season thus far. I was ecstatic and couldn’t believe it but some part of me had known it was due to coach Brenda’s teachings.
Now five or so years after that occurrence new research has come out to suggest that how we posture our bodies influences our confidence, perception, and emotions. Brenda knew what she was talking about and I also knew too, we just didn’t know the science behind it yet.
A research study found that body postures can influence self-evaluations through how confidently we feel about our thoughts (Brinol et al., 2009). To discover this, researchers asked participants to list out their best and worse traits while seated in a confident or doubtful posture (Image 1).
Most notably, the study found that when in confident posture, participants with positive thoughts saw themselves more positively than participants in doubtful posture. While I knew I was a good thrower, taking the time to stand tall at the circle likely increased how positively I viewed my skill set, leading to greater results.
Furthermore, body posture also has positive effects in mirror exposure tasks, which are often utilized in treating patients with eating disorders. Researchers aimed to analyze the effects of posture before a mirror exposure task on body emotions and cognitions and found that when participants had an expansive (head up, chest out and arms placed on hips) posture prior to completing the mirror task they had higher positive emotions than those in the contractive (head down, chest curved, and arms closed around body) posture condition (Miragall et al., 2018). Even when experiencing something as challenging as an eating disorder, a small change in how we position our body can elicit positive feelings about our body and therefore ourselves.
Most recently, a meta-analysis was published and reviewed over 85 studies to understand the experimentally induced effects body position has on behavioral, self-report, and physiological variables. The meta-analysis concluded that both poses and posture affect self-report and behavioral variables, that is the position of the body does alter how people report feeling and how they behave (Korner et al., 2022). Which further supports that how our body is oriented connects to our mind and the way we view ourselves.
While the readers of this blog, may not all be throwers we are all faced with goals we want to achieve therefore take the words of Coach Brenda:
Briñol, P., Petty, R. E., & Wagner, B. (2009). Body posture effects on self‐evaluation: A self‐validation approach. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39(6), 1053-1064. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.607
Körner, R., Röseler, L., Schütz, A., & Bushman, B. J. (2022). Dominance and prestige: Meta-analytic review of experimentally induced body position effects on behavioral, self-report, and physiological dependent variables. Psychological Bulletin, 148(1-2), 67–85. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000356
Miragall, M., Etchemendy, E., Cebolla, A., Rodríguez, V., Medrano, C., & Baños, R. M. (2018). Expand your body when you look at yourself: The role of the posture in a mirror exposure task. PloS one, 13(3), e0194686. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194686
2 thoughts on “It’s Time to Stand Tall and Proud: Looking at the Mind-Body Connection”
Happy eating indeed!
I like this aspect of treating mental conditions (e.g. depression) as it refocuses and reframes the problem. The diet we eat has a tremendous impact on our mental state (as you stated). As the famous saying goes, the stomach is the second brain. Reading this reminds me of how different cultures look at ailments in a non-eurocentric (cartesian view) being of the mind separate from the body. As we understand the mind to originate from the brain, we often focus solely on the brain ignoring all the other aspects. For example, the Esan people (as they are known) of Southwestern Nigeria view the mind and body as fundamentally the same despite their logical and functionally distinction (that we understand them to be or can comprehend). Furthermore, take serotonin, for instance; we have a brain-centric focus on serotonin despite the most amount produced in the gut.
Nevertheless, you are what you eat indeed.
I enjoyed reading this! It was nourishing. Posture is another thing that gets ignored when treating mental conditions. It might seem trivial, but as you state in your writing, it influences our confidence, perception, and emotions. In the long run, poor posture can have a cascade effect on self-esteem, which reduce overall mood and promote depression from the neurological changes of the brain over time. All this from one thing-posture.
Thank you for highlighting this undermined aspect in the medical and scientific community.
Food for thought: Most of the brain study we conduct is done on a different Posture (laying down) than we often live (standing up). The only ones I see closely related to actuality are studies on sleep.