Sitting upright could be your simplest way to bust stress at work. A new study from New Zealand found that a simple change in posture — like straightening up your slouch — can keep you calm and confident whether you're at your desk, giving a presentation, or going through a job interview.
To evaluate how posture impacts stress, the researchers had one group of people sit up tall with their backs erect and their shoulders and head straight. The rest of the participants were told to slump down in their chairs with their shoulders rounded, heads bowed, and backs stooped. Next, everyone was told to imagine they were interviewing for their dream job — and they had just five minutes to sell themselves as the best candidate. The researchers videotaped the presentations so they could go back later and evaluate the participants' speech patterns and word choices. Afterward, both groups rated their mood, self-esteem, and perceived threat during and after the interviews.
Overall, the upright sitters were far less stressed than those who slouched. They reported feeling more confidence, less fear, and better moods during and after their presentations. The video playback also showed that they spoke slower and used language that was more positive and confident. "We think the body can mount a better physiological response to the stressor when it is in an upright sitting position compared to when it is slumped," says lead study author Elizabeth Broadbent.
That may be because sitting up straight lets your body function better overall. "When you slouch in your chair, structurally, your body is kinked," says Esther Gokhale, founder of the Gokhale Method Institute in Palo Alto, California, and author of 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back. Slouching can impair organ function and limit your blood flow, she explains. "When the whole system is compromised like this, it's very stressful physiologically, so it only makes sense that that stress would bubble up into your psyche."