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Joe worked in a large printing office and noticed that a co-worker was sad and depressed. While Joe didn’t know or talk to this person, he expressed concern about their mood. Our mind’s eye is trained to interpret poor posture, slouching in a chair, a heavy gait and a frowning disposition as a sign of sadness or depression.
Could changing your posture, chatting it up on the bus or putting a little bounce in your step boost your mood?
New research suggests that it can!
In one study, two groups of students were asked to walk for eight minutes. The first group was asked to walk in a depressed manner and the second group was asked to walk in a happy manner. While they walked, the researchers read off 20 positive words and 20 negative words. Post-walk, the researchers asked each of the students to tell them which words they remembered the most. The group that walked in a depressed manner remembered more of the negative words, and the group that walked happily remembered more of the positive words. (1)
A similar experiment with depressed patients found that those sitting in a slouched, depressed posture remembered more negative words than when sitting upright. (2)
In another study, when commuters were instructed to strike up a conversation with someone on the bus, train, cab or waiting room, they reported more well-being compared to the commuters that were instructed to not interact while commuting. (3)
And finally, in a Starbucks study, about 60 people were divided up into two groups. One group was asked to be as efficient as possible and avoid conversation when ordering, and the other group was asked to chat it up, smile and make eye contact while ordering and waiting for the barista to make their drinks. Those that made an effort to connect and converse with the barista reported a more positive mood and greater satisfaction with their Starbucks experience.
While putting a little bounce in your step or chatting it up in a waiting room may not cure your depression, studies suggest that we can measurably brighten up our day and the day of others by infusing the look and feel of joy in what some might call mundane, everyday activities.
What a great way to manifest joy and pay it forward!