Sitting up straight and fixing your posture may help ease symptoms of depression and improve mood, a new study in New Zealand revealed.

Researchers from the University of Auckland suggest that changing one's posture is a "simple, highly acceptable, and low-risk intervention" that could be applied alongside other treatments for depression.

Benefits of Upright Posture

Past studies have shown that stooped posture may be a feature of depression.

In fact, a previous study by researchers from San Francisco State University discovered that students who slouched experienced "increased feelings of depression," while students who skipped and swung their arms in an upward motion reported feeling more energetic.

Now, in the new report, Elizabeth Broadbent and her team investigated whether changing one's posture could alleviate the negative effects in 61 people with mild to moderate depression who underwent a stressful task. The participants were randomly assigned to either a usual-posture group or an upright-posture group.

Those in the upright-posture group were asked to look straight ahead, level their shoulders, and straighten their backs. They were also told to think about stretching the tops of their heads towards the ceiling while gently pulling their shoulder blades together. Rigid physiotherapy tape were placed on these participants' backs and shoulders to maintain the upright position.

Both the upright-posture group and usual-posture group were asked to give a five-minute speech that would be assessed by researchers. They counted backward from 1,022 in steps of 13, and they also filled out questionnaires that probed their moods during the activities.

Preliminary Findings

Broadbent and her colleagues discovered that the upright-posture group spoke significantly more words than the other group.

Past studies have shown that people with depression often used "I," the first person singular pronoun. The upright-posture group used fewer words with this pronoun compared to the usual-posture group, and they also had shorter utterances.

Researchers suggest that having a good posture may help reduce self-focus among people with depression, as well as result to less negative mood and more energy. These have all been linked to alleviating the symptoms of depression.

Broadbent warned that the effect of an upright posture may also manifest among people who don't have depression but feel a little blue. She said she became motivated to study the link between depression and posture based on her own experiences. She noticed that her shoulders were always slumped while walking and she kept looking at the ground.

"I looked up and put my shoulders back," said Broadbent. "Immediately I felt much better."

Meanwhile, Broadbent said their findings are still preliminary, and that it warrants further research, particularly to investigate the long-term effects of an upright posture.

Details of the report are featured in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.

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