The take-way message is that what you do with your body can have a profound effect on your Limbo. For this reason, former President of the American Psychological Association, Professor Martin Seligman, stated in his book Flourish: “At least half of positive psychology occurs below the neck”.
Knowing that motion creates emotion provides an excellent opportunity for you to change your emotional state. You can intentionally use the proprioceptors distributed throughout your body to trick your two-year-old-like Limbo into creating the emotions you want. It’s a simple principle: act how you want to feel. It applies to both your posture and how you move.
Don’t Just Sit There!
Researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand conducted an intriguing study in which they strapped participants with tape so that they were forced into either a slumped or upright seated posture to see how it affected their mood and stress levels. The participants remained in this posture for about half an hour while the researchers conducted a series of tests. Compared to those with the slumped posture, the “upright” participants reported a significant mood lift and felt more motivated, less fearful and more confident. During the experiment, the participants were asked to write a speech and the “slumped” participants used more negative and dejected vocabulary.
Even if you don’t want to feel depressed, act like it in the way you position your body, and the feeling will grow on you anyway. It is my belief that part of the reason we have an epidemic of depression today is because many people are behaving like they are depressed for hours and hours every day. An increasing number of people spend their working day hunched over a computer, shoulders slumped forward and head downcast. A posture like that causes millions of proprioceptors to send depressive signals to your Limbo. Is it any wonder that your Limbo makes you feel lousy if that is how you spend the day?
There is nothing wrong with lazing about from time to time, but the problem is that we tend to do so much sitting nowadays, and sitting leads to slumping. It is not uncommon for people to be “bottom-dwelling” for 15 or more hours every day, which is truly remarkable given that most people are only awake for 16 to 18 hours. We sit to eat breakfast, we sit to commute to work, we sit hunched-over in front of a computer at work, we sit to commute home, we sit for dinner and then, because we are so exhausted, we sit in front of a screen until bed time, so we can do it all again the next day.
There are two things that you can do to help prevent your Limbo getting the message that you are “down” so that it doesn’t make you feel more that way. First, when seated, sit up straight with good posture. I once attended a media training course and one of the first things they taught was that when being interviewed—even if on radio, where the listeners cannot see you—sit up straight and lean forward slightly. Why? Because this posture makes you come across as more energetic and animated. In effect, your proprioceptors bombard your Limbo with the message that you are alive and well, so you feel that way and come across that way to others.
The second thing you can do to prevent your Limbo ‘feeling’ you are down is to stand up! Historically, National Physical Activity Guidelines only provided recommendations as to how long and how hard we should exercise for good health. Now they also warn against “sedentary behaviours” like too much sitting. It is recommended that people should get on their feet for a few minutes every hour or so to break up prolonged periods of sitting, because there is established evidence showing that being sedentary for prolonged periods does not serve us well (mentally or physically). A study published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry in 2020 found that young people who became increasingly sedentary through the ages of 12-14 years were significantly more likely to be depressed at age 18.
The take-away lesson is pay careful attention to your posture and the amount of time you spend being sedentary.
To give your Limbo a lift, sit up and stand up. Not only will you feel better, you might discover other benefits too. A study conducted at Harvard Business School found that adopting an open, expansive posture for just two minutesbefore giving a speech as part of a job interview resulted in the interviewers rating the interviewee as more confident and employable.
But there is an even better way to activate your proprioceptors for good effect.
A little while ago as I walked into my local shopping mall I was confronted with a sign advertising “Happiness, only $99.” Intrigued, I approached the shop assistant to enquire further. He explained that the $99 was the first of ten payments that purchased the treadmill the sign was attached to. So was it false advertising? Can exercise make you happy?