Guess What Increases Stress Hormone Cortisol, Negative Thinking, Harder Time on Math Tests & More

We'd bet almost nobody reading this will guess correctly on what we're talking about in the headline above.. What do you think has now been found to cause an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, negative thinking, and a harder time on math tests?

 And also causes all these negatives:

¨ Reduction in Happiness

¨ Worse Moods

¨ Poorer Cognition

¨ Reduced Recall Ability

¨ Lower Self-Esteem

¨ More Fear

¨ Increased Stress Hormone Cortisol

¨ Decrease in Testosterone

Here’s a hint: your teachers, parents and grandparents likely all told you not to do this when you were young. And if you were like most kids, you couldn’t imagine what the big deal was… what could possibly be so important about that?

To tell you the truth, until we stumbled on this article with the studies about this, I sure never knew it was linked to all those issues. Have you figured it out yet? It’s not anything you eat. It’s not sleep. It’s....      slouching.

Yup. Slouching. So maybe we all should have paid more attention when we were told to “sit up straight, don’t slouch!”, “stand straight”, etc. And all these impacts of slouching have been determined through actual studies.

 It turns out slouching not only causes all of the issues mentioned above, but also:

¨ head,

¨ neck, and

¨ shoulder pain

 And, it Reduces:

¨ respiration,

¨ lowers energy, and

¨ contributes to poor blood flow to the back of the brain.

Now for the details from the studies that were conducted to conclude all of these links to slouching.

Erik Peper, Professor of Holistic Health Studies in the Department of Health Education at San Francisco State University, along with some other researchers, conducted a study on the effects of slouching or sitting straight, in 2004 and published the results of it. They asked 24 healthy men and women to generate positive and negative thoughts in either an upright or slumped position. Almost all of them reported it was easier to recall positive thoughts when sitting erect.

A later study including 28 college students found that recalling any thoughts, whether positive or negative, takes a great deal more effort in a slouched position.

In a much larger study of over 200 students, almost 9 out of 10 found it easier to recall memories of despair, vulnerability, powerlessness and defeat while in a slumped versus an upright posture. And the reverse of that was also true… 9 out of 10 found it easier to access positive and empowering images while sitting up straight rather in in a hunched position.

Other studies also confirmed those findings. Psychologists in New Zealand reported that “upright participants reported higher self-esteem, more arousal, better mood, and lower fear, compared to slumped participants.”

And then there’s the “Huge Two Minute Hormone Change”… this was found in a posture study conducted by Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy and colleagues by measuring testosterone which is related to dominance and assertiveness, and the hormone associated with stress — cortisol. This study found that after just two minutes, volunteers in the study sitting in upright positions (“high-power body postures”), had a 20% increase in testosterone and a 25% decrease in cortisol. And for those who “folded up their bodies and made them look small”, there was a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol.

In a later study, Professor Peper recruited 125 university students to perform a mental math test. The students found the test much more difficult while slouching, than when sitting up straight. The difference was especially true in students who were the most anxious about the test before it began.

Professor Peper’s fellow author, Richard Harvey, Associate Professor of Health Education, noted that maintaining a defensive posture can trigger old negative memories in the body and brain. Professor Peper added that “posture makes a giant difference. The slumped-over position shuts people down and their brains do not work as well. They cannot think as clearly.” But Professor Peper added, “Yet people tend to adopt a slouched posture while looking down at digital screens.”   That seems like a word of warning we should all remember as we use our cell phones, tablets, etc… try to maintain an upright position whenever possible. Professor Peper pointed out that “You have a choice. It’s about using an empowered position to optimize your focus.”

As I said, I for one had no idea that a good posture had all these benefits beyond simply looking better and being better for your back. I’m going to try to be more conscious of my posture, and I hope everyone else will too. It certainly seems to worth the effort after learning all this! I’m sure it won’t be easy to remember at first, but again, it sure sounds worth the effort!    


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