A Link Between Posture and Depression

Written by Dr. Luke

June 9, 2022

New Research points to a link between posture and the treatment of depression. Maybe your mother was right when she constantly told you to stand up straight and to sit up straight.

Depression is a significant variable worldwide. The World Health Organization reports that 5% of adults worldwide suffer from depression and related illnesses. What’s the best way to treat it? While medications, counseling, and various exercise treatments are typically prescribed by health professionals, how about good posture? This sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

A recent study looked at these three areas as treatment protocols. The study pointed to the best results from postural training ahead of medication and talk therapy. Study ⁠1 concluded with the suggestion that “adopting an upright posture may increase positive affect, reduce fatigue, and decrease self-focus in people with mild-to-moderate depression”.   The results were quite surprising.

happy spot

find your happy spot

Your Posture is a direct reflection of how your nervous system is coping with the world!

As humans, we are very good at interpreting postural cues to “read” a person that we encounter. We notice if someone looks bored, depressed, or has low energy. Slumped shoulders, head forward, listless smile, etc. are common postural components for depression. Likewise, if a person is happy and enthusiastic, the posture will reflect that, too. A happy person has a better, upright posture, with chest forward, head back in alignment, shoulders back, and usually a smile. We are instantly attracted to people who “look” happy and positive. So then, if our posture reflects how we view ourselves in the world, can we change our posture and actually have it change our outlook? According to this research, the answer is “Yes.”

Here’s another way to think about it. It is widely accepted that the clothing that you wear has a direct impact on your attitude and identity. If a person wears a uniform to work, for example, they become that role while wearing the uniform. Likewise, at the end of the day, once the uniform is removed, a different version of the person emerges, in alignment with the clothing. If we wear formal attire for a public event, we will likely act more formal than normal. Numerous experts have followed up with this idea regarding working from home. Dressing up rather than dressing casually will typically yield more productivity.

There are limitations to this strategy. Standing up straight and looking at yourself in the mirror for several minutes a day will improve your self-image and your mood. But what happens if you stop doing this for a week? Old patterns will certainly take hold, and the depression will return. Therefore, my assertion is that an Outside-In approach will work but has limitations. It requires diligence and discipline, which may be in short supply if a person feels depressed. It’s easy to talk yourself out of the postural exercises. Is there a better way?

I espouse an Inside-Out approach. A modality such as Network Spinal (NS) cues the nervous system to release stored tension held in the body. This allows the person to self-regulate, and better posture will automatically ensue. Better posture, greater range of motion, and higher energy levels are all common results of Network Spinal. Learn more about Network Care.

Once old neurological patterns are replaced with healthier ones, everything changes. This is definitely food for thought! So stand up straight – not just because your mother told you so, but because it leads to better health. There is definitely a link between posture and depression.

1 Wilkes, Carissa, Rob Kydd, Mark Sagar, and Elizabeth Broadbent. “Upright Posture Improves Affect and Fatigue in People with Depressive Symptoms.” Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry 54 (2017): doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2016.07.015.

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