Posture communicates so much about ourselves and our current state of mind. We stand with open, upright posture when we’re feeling confident and on top of the world but curl into ourselves when we feel threatened, sad, or defeated. Our posture, it seems, follows our state of being. But it works the other way as well: By adopting a new posture, people can affect their mood (you can choose food that will do this too). It’s similar to how happy feelings make us smile but smiling can also trigger happy feelings.

People who hold strong, open postures where they take up space and stand upright experience more confidence, better mood and less fear than people who held slumped, closed postures, even to the point of improving mood and fatigue in people diagnosed with depression. The effects of posture on a person’s well-being go far deeper than affecting just their emotional response: In a study that tested the presence of cortisol (the stress hormone) in people before and after they held a closed posture and an open posture, the level of cortisol was consistently lower after people held a strong open posture for two minutes.

This is powerful information for people who work in front of a computer, a situation that leads most of us to slouch over time. The trick, of course, is figuring out how to sustain an upright, open posture throughout the day. While there are posture-improving wearables out there, for a quick start, here is a simple exercise that you can do at your desk: Sit upright, both feet flat on the floor. Place one hand on top of the other at the back of your head. Gently press your head into your hands and extend your upper body backward, keeping your chin in and elbows wide. Slowly sit upright again.

This extension exercise targets the muscles in your upper back and neck, increases spinal mobility in extension, stretches the pectoral muscles, and works the muscles at the back of the neck (which tend to get weak when we look at screens). Repeat this exercise 10 times a day for optimum results.

How do you beat the computer slouch? Let us know @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)