Stomach cramps, palpitations or tension: The fact that stress can affect the body is probably known to everyone. Posture and psyche are also closely connected. When someone is not feeling well, it can sometimes be seen from the outside at first glance: The person slumps down, pulls up their shoulders, hangs their head and makes their back round.
Stress, anxiety and sadness all affect posture – but the reverse can also put you in a bad mood, almost by accident. "Certain body postures are associated with negative moods," says Dr. Petra Mommert-Jauch. She is the author of the book "Embodiment", in which she describes the interactions between body and soul. (Read also: The best diet? Lose weight in a healthy way with these 5 popular dietary methods!)
The posture affects the mood
Anyone who sits slouched will have a hard time feeling energetic and in a good mood at that moment. The reason for this is that there is a feedback between body posture and psyche that works in both directions: If you get scared, you pull your shoulders up – but if you pull your shoulders up because you’re sitting in an awkward posture, for example, you’re also more likely to feel anxious: "Posture contributes to the body passing on appropriate signals to the central nervous system," says the expert. (Also interesting: Coffee: With this trick you can fight fatigue even better)
Conversely, this also offers the chance to consciously use your body, posture and certain movements to gain more inner strength and balance. "With our posture and body movement, as well as through gestures and facial expressions, we can have a positive influence on our mood," says Mommert-Jauch.
Fascia seems to play an important role
The term embodiment describes this interplay of posture and mood. "By adopting certain postures or performing a movement in a specific way, we can consciously influence our thinking, feeling and attitudes," explains the body expert. (Also worth reading: Experts advise: Keep your feet fit with these simple exercises)
How body and mood interact is still unclear in detail. "But there is a suggestion that fascia plays an important role in perceiving bodily structures," says Mommert-Jauch. Fascia and its role in the body have become the focus of increasing attention in recent years. These are certain structures in the connective tissue, which are distributed as a meshwork over the entire body. They also give the brain feedback about the position of the body parts in relation to each other.
Sitting for long periods of time is not good for us
Unlike our ancestors, who were on the move a lot, most people today spend much of the day in a sedentary position. This is not only unfavorable from a health point of view, because movement triggers important processes in the metabolism, but also has other consequences: "If I sit hunched over at the PC for eight hours, my body doesn’t necessarily perceive this as my work, but evolutionarily as a position associated with negative feelings," says the expert. (Read also: Fasting: Eating protein-rich foods afterwards boosts fat burning – according to study)
Such posture has always been associated with anxiety and sadness. If you then slouch on the sofa after work to watch a series, you may wonder why you don’t feel well, although objectively everything seems to be fine. For Petra Mommert-Jauch, the matter is clear: A chronically hunched posture, whether on a laptop, cell phone or tablet, can be the cause of subliminal bad moods.
Embodiment is also used in psychotherapy
But how can this knowledge about the body be used to put yourself in a better mood? First of all, you need to be aware of how you are sitting, standing or walking. When someone is used to a slouched position, it feels familiar and comfortable. If one straightens up, it can feel not only unfamiliar, but also quite uncomfortable at first. (Also interesting: Fitness: HIIT training is good for the liver, too – according to new study)
For example, the embodiment approach is used specifically in psychotherapy to treat depression. "But it’s not a matter of someone suddenly having to walk as upright as possible," says the expert. This feels wrong for most people when they are in a bad mood.
Patients learn to sense the interconnectedness of body and psyche through special impulses given by therapists. "You can imagine, for example, that you have red paint on your feet and want to apply as much of it as possible with every step, especially with the ball of your foot on the floor," says Mommert-Jauch. "When you walk this way and roll your feet, you gain a whole different body tension." And that has a feedback effect on your mood. (Also worth reading: Eat healthier on the side: With these expert tips it succeeds quite simply)
The expert’s top 3 exercises
However, exercises from embodiment are not only used in psychotherapy, but everyone can use them in everyday life to feel better and more balanced. The expert’s top 3 exercises can even be done unobtrusively in the office:
1. Find a feel-good movement
If you sit for eight hours, you should vary your posture as much as possible and stand up in between, for example, to make a phone call or talk to colleagues. Still, a lot of sitting time occurs during the course of the day for most people. (Read also: Learn to meditate properly: forget these 6 misconceptions about meditation)
Petra Mommert-Jauch recommends experimenting with your sitting posture and finding a comfortable movement that loosens your hips. To do this, one sits upright and first circles the pelvis in all directions. Then shift your weight from your right buttock to your left buttock and back again. This results in a slight swaying motion. What about the shoulders, the neck and the head? Do they want to join the movement? And is there perhaps even a picture or a melody in the ear, with which this movement particularly good mood makes? Movement is linked to an image, music or a feel-good phrase. "This is how you create a neural network," says the expert.
2. Stand up and stretch
It may sound banal, but it brings a lot to stand up and stretch in between. This movement is especially effective if you not only stretch upwards, but also bend to the sides. "This releases tense muscles and stuck layers of tissue," explains the expert. "Here, too, you should look to see if there is a feel-good movement that feels particularly good and that can be linked to a soothing image or phrase." (Also interesting: Alcohol: These two questions can help you find out if you have an addiction problem)
3. Observe mood in different postures
In order to gain a feeling for the embodiment, i.e. the interaction between body and mood, it is also worthwhile to carry out a small experiment: sit down on your chair as round and limp as possible. "And then you say to yourself, wow, am I in a good mood today!", says Mommert-Jauch. Most people should find it difficult in this attitude. Then take the opposite position: straighten up, stretch your arms upwards, lean backwards. "And then say to yourself: today I’m really sad."Through such exercises, you gain a sense of how postures can affect you – and what you can do yourself to feel better in everyday life. (Also worth reading: Are testosterone and success related? Study now provides new insights)