Transforming thoughts with postural awareness to increase therapeutic and teaching efficacy

  • Erik Peper San Francisco State University
  • Richard Harvey Institute for Holistic Health Studies, San Francisco State University, USA
  • Daniel Hamiel Donald J. Cohen & Irving B. Harris Resilience Center, Association for Children at Risk, Tel-Aviv, Israel and Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, Herzlyia Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel
Keywords: posture, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, stress reduction, internal language, breathing

Abstract

This article suggests that clinicians as well as educators should employ simple and quick posture comparison techniques to shift awareness, elevate mood, and support cognitive function.  The report examines the impact of a short somatic involvement technique that involved changing one’s body posture to reduce the effect of self-evoked memory of stress.  Group observations of 90 men and 55 women, mean age 22.5 years, suggest that people were able to reframe stressful memories much more easily when in an upright posture compared to a slouched posture.  They reported a significant reduction in negative thoughts as determined by a single factor ANOVA, F(1, 285) = 42.92, p = .001; and anxiety and tension as determined by a single factor ANOVA, F(1, 287) = 62.38, p = .001.  We suggest that therapists and clients get up out of their chairs and incorporate body movements when either the therapist or the client feels stuck, in order to reduce rigidity and increase openness of thoughts and emotions facilitated, which may increase educational and therapeutic goals with sustained benefits outside of the classroom or clinic.

Author Biographies

Erik Peper, San Francisco State University
Professor Institute for Holistic Health Studies Department of Health Education
Richard Harvey, Institute for Holistic Health Studies, San Francisco State University, USA

Associate Professor, Health Education, San Francisco State University

Daniel Hamiel, Donald J. Cohen & Irving B. Harris Resilience Center, Association for Children at Risk, Tel-Aviv, Israel and Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, Herzlyia Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel

Professor

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Berntson, G. G., Gianaros, P. J., & Tsakiris, M. (2018). Interoception and the autonomic nervous system: Bottom-up meets top-down. In M. Tsakiris & H. De Preester (Eds.), The Interoceptive Mind: From Homeostasis to Awareness (Part 1). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198811930.003.0001

Briñol, P., Petty, R. E., & Wagner, B. (2009). Body posture effects on self-evaluation: A self-validation approach. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39(6), 1053–1064. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.607

Brown, R. P., Gerbarg, P. L., & Muench, F. (2013). Breathing practices for treatment of psychiatric and stress-related medical conditions. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 36(1), 121–140. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2013.01.001

Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J. C., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power posing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1363–1368. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797610383437

Critchley, H. D., Mathias, C. J., & Dolan, R. J. (2001). Neuroanatomical basis for first- and second-order representations of bodily states. Nature Neuroscience, 4, 207–212. https://doi.org/10.1038/84048

Cruess, D. G., Finitsis, D. J., Smith, A.-L., Goshe, B. M., Burnham, K., Burbridge, C., & O'Leary, K. (2015). Brief stress management reduces acute distress and buffers physiological response to a social stress test. International Journal of Stress Management, 22(3), 270–286. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0039130

Cuddy, A. (2012, June). Your body language shapes who you are [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

Gao, L., Curtiss, J., Liu, X., & Hofmann, S. G. (2018). Differential treatment mechanisms in mindfulness meditation and progressive muscle relaxation. Mindfulness, 9(4),1268–1279. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0869-9

Goldstein, D. S. (2012). Neurocardiology: Therapeutic implications for cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular Therapeutics, 30(2), e89–e106. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1755-5922.2010.00244.x

Green, E. (1999). Beyond psychophysics. Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine, 10(4), 368¬–395.

Hayes, S. C., Pistorello, J., & Levin, M. E. (2012). Acceptance and commitment therapy as a unified model of behavior change. The Counseling Psychologist, 40(7), 976–1002. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000012460836

Michalak, J., Mischnat, J., & Teismann, T. (2014). Sitting posture makes a difference—embodiment effects on depressive memory bias. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 21(6), 519–524. https://doi.org/10.1002/cpp.1890

Michalak, J., Rohde, K., & Troje, N. F. (2015). How we walk affects what we remember: Gait modifications trough biofeedback change negative affective memory bias. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 46, 121–125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2014.09.004

Nair, S., Sagar, M., Sollers, J., Consedine, N., & Broadbent, E. (2015). Do slumped and upright postures affect stress responses? A randomized trial. Health Psychology, 34(6), 632–641. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0000146

Navarro, P. N., Landin-Romero, R., Guardiola-Wanden-Berghe, R., Moreno-Alcázar, A., Valiente-Gómez, A., Lupo, W., ... Amann, B. L. (2018). 25 years of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): The EMDR therapy protocol, hypotheses of its mechanism of action and a systematic review of its efficacy in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Revista de Psiquiatría y Salud Mental (English Edition), 11(2), 101–114. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rpsm.2015.12.002

Niedenthal, P. M. (2007). Embodying emotion. Science, 316(5827), 1002–1005. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1136930

Oosterwijk, S., Rotteveel, M., Fischer, A. H., & Hess, U. (2009). Embodied emotion concepts: How generating words about pride and disappointment influences posture. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39(3), 457–466. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.584

Peper, E., Harvey, R., Mason, L., & Lin, I.-M. (2018). Do better in math: How your body posture may change stereotype threat response. NeuroRegulation, 5(2), 67–74. https://doi.org/10.15540/nr.5.2.67

Peper, E., & Lin, I.-M. (2012). Increase or decrease depression: How body postures influence your energy level. Biofeedback, 40(3), 125–130. https://doi.org/10.5298/1081-5937-40.3.01

Peper, E., Lin, I.-M., Harvey, R., & Perez, J. (2017). How posture affects memory recall and mood. Biofeedback, 45(2), 36–41. https://doi.org/10.5298/1081-5937-45.2.01

Quinn, M. E., Grant, K. E., & Adam, E. K. (2018). Negative cognitive style and cortisol recovery accentuate the relationship between life stress and depressive symptoms. Stress: The International Journal on the Biology of Stress, 21(2), 119–127. https://doi.org/10.1080/10253890.2017.1414800

Riskind, J. H. (1984). They stoop to conquer: Guiding and self- regulatory functions of physical posture after success and failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47(3), 479–493. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.47.3.479

Riskind, J. H., & Gotay, C. C. (1982). Physical posture: Could it have regulatory or feedback effects on motivation and emotion? Motivation and Emotion, 6(3), 273–298. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992249

Smith, K. C., Davoli, C. C., Knapp, W. H., & Abrams, R. A. (2019). Standing enhances cognitive control and alters visual search. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-019-01723-6

Stichter, M., & Saunders, L. (2018). Positive psychology and virtue: Values in action. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 14(1), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2018.1528381

Stroebel, C. F. (1982). QR: Tthe Quieting Reflex. New York, NY: Putnam.

Tsai, H.-Y., Peper, E., & Lin, I.-M. (2016). EEG patterns under positive/negative body postures and emotion recall tasks. NeuroRegulation, 3(1), 23–27. https://doi.org/10.15540/nr.3.1.23

Wang, S.-M., & Kain, Z. N. (2001). Auricular acupuncture: A potential treatment for anxiety. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 92(2), 548–553. https://doi.org/10.1097/00000539-200102000-00049

Weisfeld, G. E., & Beresford, J. M. (1982). Erectness of posture as an indicator of dominance or success in humans. Motivation and Emotion, 6(2), 113–131. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992459

Wilkes, C., Kydd, R., Sagar, M., & Broadbent, E. (2017). Upright posture improves affect and fatigue in people with depressive symptoms. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 54, 143–149. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2016.07.015

Published
2019-09-13
Section
Research Papers