If you’ve ever gotten stuck walking behind someone whose gait was painfully slow, you might have found yourself frustrated and moody, perhaps even changing your own walking style to match your mood. According to a new study, these small changes in walking style can add up to change in mood and outlook, potentially even making it easier to remember negative information.
Does Walking Speed Change Mood?
The study was small, relying on 39 undergraduate students who walked on a treadmill. Researchers instructed participants to walk in a depressed style, with their shoulders slumped and their heads down, or to adopt a happier gait, with their heads held high and shoulders back. As participants walked, researchers viewed a screen that gauged the walkers’ walking style as either happy or depressed. They used this biofeedback to encourage participants to adopt a specific gait. Researchers showed the walkers words associated with both positive and negative emotions.
After they walked, researchers asked participants to write down as many words as they could remember viewing during their walk. Walkers who adopted a depressed style of walking were able to remember more words associated with depressed emotions. The study’s authors argue that the “depressed” style of walking made it easier for participants to remember words connoting unhappiness. They point out that we constantly work to gain information about ourselves, our surroundings, and others by exploring cues from body language, so it makes sense that a person’s body language could affect his or her emotions. Previous research has shown that people with clinical depression are more likely to remember negative life events, especially those that make them feel bad about themselves.
A number of studies have shown that regular exercise, including walking, can help reduce the severity of depression and other mental health difficulties. If walking style matters, though, it’s not just regular exercise that matters, but also how you carry your body when you exercise.
Change your walking style, change your mood. (2014, October 15). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141015143259.htm
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