Posted: April 15, 2020 in: Depression

STANDING TALL WHEN COPING WITH LIFE CHALLENGES

Posture Affects Mood, and Mood Affects Posture

Our health care system must help patients see, feel and understand how posture affects mood, and mood affects posture.

Mood disorders, including depression, are often the direct cause of secondary health problems.  Mood is addressed by different mental health professionals, psychiatrists, guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers and spiritual counselors. Mental health professionals address the invisible demons of mood disorders, but often do not recognize or address the visible and typical ways that mood disorders negatively impact posture.  People struggling with low mood look like they are, partly because they are not standing up straight.  Not only does a defeated posture often lead to other physical complaints, but it creates a negative body-mind feedback loop that can deepen a person’s despondency.

These patients deserve to be treated with a team approach that includes physical therapists, alongside mental health professionals.

The role of exercise directed at posture is misunderstood and underutilized in improving individual mental health.  Mental health professionals could improve patient outcomes with referrals to physical therapists. Such referrals could eliminate and prevent secondary musculoskeletal problems such as back, neck, shoulder and even hip and foot pain.  In addition, poor posture can have an adverse effect on respiratory and digestive systems.

I developed a positive and powerful individual exercise program to help patients see, feel and understand the power of proper posture versus slumped, depressed posture. This literally makes it possible to use improved posture to adjust a person’s mindset toward that of a non-depressed person.  The program is individualized to enhance the development of self-confidence and self-esteem, while increasing energy and endurance, adding to the effectiveness of counseling and other mental health therapies.  I wrote about it in Stand Up to Depression (and am offering to make the exercises in that book available to anyone who cannot afford it, free).

Posture is not static; it is dynamic.  It has to be, in order to “support” every movement we make.  It isn’t just about standing straight up and being rigid.  That would defeat the purpose of being flexible and strong (physically and, as I am suggesting, psychologically).

As we confront the Coronavirus crisis and seek to restore the mental well-being of the millions who are being psychologically impacted, physical therapists should be on the front lines, too—as critical partners of those mending minds.

 

Kathi Fairbend, MS RPT

Stand Up to Depression

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