Stand up straight, and you’ll feel better

In our Mind life Lab Experiments, Martha Roberts invites you to road-test research around feeling good


Stand up straight, and you'll feel better

The project

Better posture will not only result in less back pain – research suggests it has a powerful effect on mood, too. The aim Improving posture as you walk or relax is a proven short-cut to feeling happier and more confident.

The theory

Research by Erik Peper of San Francisco State University found that when we stand upright, we’re more likely to think positive thoughts. ‘Skipping even for a minute significantly increased energy levels and alertness for all subjects,’ he says. Posture while sitting has a similar effect.

A 2004 study by Vietta E. Wilson and Peper showed ‘sitting collapsed’ looking downwards resulted in more hopeless, helpless, powerless and negative memories than sitting upright looking up. These effects are due to the mind-body relationship – our brain responds to our body’s movements just as our body’s movements reflect our moods.

‘The mind-body relationship is a two-way street,’ explains Peper. ‘When you choose to put your body in a different mode, it’s harder to drop into depression.’

Try it out

  • Stand up straight. Hold your head up, shoulders back, chest out, eyes looking straight ahead. Rock back and forth from your heels to the balls of your feet; notice how your body shifts from slouching to more upright. Keep your shoulders squared. Check you’re doing all this each time you are standing.
  • Sit up straight. Be aware of your posture whenever you are sitting – whether it’s at a computer, while texting or watching TV. Align your back with the back of the seat, keep your shoulders straight and squared.
  • Skip. Take time three times a day to skip like a child, reaching back and forth with your arms and engaging your whole body in the process. Make a note of how positive and energised it makes you feel. Peper says even one minute per day will help you to feel more energised, so make each skipping session one minute long.

Martha Roberts is an award-winning UK health writer and mental health blogger at

More inspiration:

Read 5 ways to feel more balanced, every day by Eminé Ali Rushton on LifeLabs

Photograph: Corbis