Changing your walk can change your mood, say scientists

A new study shows that changing how you walk can change how you feel. We all know that being in a good mood puts a spring in your step, but researchers wanted to find out if the opposite was true, too.

Scientists from Queen’s University in Canada (working in association with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research) showed study participants a list of both positive and negative words, like ‘happy’ and ‘anxious’, and then measured their posture and gait while they walked on a treadmill.

As they walked, a screen showed a gauge that moved to the left if their style was more slouchy and depressed and to the right if they were bouncing along in a happy little trot. The researchers asked some people to move the gauge more to the left, and others to try to move it to the right, without telling them what emotional state was linked with each direction.

Afterwards, they asked the participants to write down as many words from the list as they could remember. Those who had been walking in a more depressed style remembered more negative words and had much more trouble calling up the positive ones, suggesting that posture and gait affect our ability to look on the bright side, and walking taller really can help us feel happier.

The results have been published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry and Nikolaus Troje, who led the study, hopes that it could one day form the basis for treatment for people with depression, who tend to focus on the negative. ‘If you can break that self-perpetuating cycle, you might have a strong therapeutic tool to work with depressive patients’ he said.

Image via Beverley Goodwin’s Flickr.

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Diane Shipley

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