Do you have happiness posture?

As a Chiropractor, we frequently analyse posture. We also inevitably see patients who are also suffering from low mood or a variety of depressive disorders. But are the two connected? Dr Michael Hall (DC / Functional Neurologist) argues that they are. We know that the right side of the brain is the side involved with posture. But Hall points out it’s also the side of the brain involved with empathy and caring for others which is important in counteracting feelings of depression. 

Recently, I was asked to help a large marketing agency with their workplace ergonomics. Prior to providing individual workplace assessments I presented to the team a lecture on the link between poor posture and stress. In that lecture I explained how we use body language for up to 55% of the way we communicate with others. How we communicate reveals a lot about how we are feeling on the inside. We carry ourselves very differently when we are excited, happy or confident compared to when we feel insecure, depleted or depressed.

Mental health continues to be a core issue in our current public health morbidity;

Almost one in five Australians surveyed had experienced symptoms of a mental disorder during the 12 month period before the survey. Anxiety disorders were most common – 14.4%, followed by affective disorders - 6.2% (of which depression is 4.1%), and substance use disorders – 5.1% (of which 4.3% is alcohol related). ABS 2015

"Our posture is reflective of what we are feeling on the inside"

We know, due to our understanding of fight or flight and the sympathetic response, there is a significant impact that stress can have on defensive posturing and physiology. Hall explains in simple terms, how chiropractic can have a bearing on this and the prefrontal cortex in the brain which is largely responsible for our feelings of happiness.

Stress reduces activation of the prefrontal cortex. Chronic pain decreases activation in the frontal lobes. Chiropractic care aims to reduce pain and indirectly increase activation of the prefrontal cortex.

Interestingly, we know our posture and muscles will adapt to the position that we put ourselves in the most. Now think about how most of us in the CBD spend our days… at a desk in front of a computer. Our head is bent forward, our shoulders rolled forward with our hands typing away.

The question is; How is this posture impacting our minds, our happiness and our relationships with others?

When I was studying Applied Kinesiology and Neural Organisation Technique back in 2003/04 we learnt protocols to assist people with what we call “Postural Defence”. When an individual is in postural defence we would often see their shoulders become unbalanced, raised and rolling forward, leading to a more forward stooping or flexed posture. It kind of mimics our “foetal position” as our unconscious memory reminds of what is usually a safe place for us when in utero.

Postural defence is an indicator that your nervous system may be sympathetic dominant. The sympathetic nervous system is most active during periods of stress. This means little stressors can feel like big stressors! While there may have been many initial external triggers to your stress (money, job, finance, career, relationships or your opinion of self) it is also possible that you can get stuck in this state if your body and nervous system does not have the resilience and adaptability to recover. This is where good posture and regular spinal care can help.

"Our posture can affect how we feel on the inside"

If you have poor posture your mental state can be negatively affected, and if you are in a negative mental state you will often have poor posture. Although our posture is not only thing that could affecting our mood, the function of our spine and nervous system has a big impact on the way our brain functions.

My Top 5 tips On Maintaining A Good Posture (some may surprise you!)

1. Get regular spinal checkups
Adjustments to your spine are important to ensure the the vertebra can move and position themselves correctly when you are at rest or during activity. Poor posture, stress and physical inactivity are some of the causes for spinal dysfunction. This has a huge impact on our brain function and nervous system and can be the cause or effect of poor posture and reduced resilience to stress.

I suggest spinal checkups at least every 6 weeks for people who are in good health but are in a sedentary desk type job.

2. Set up your workstation correctly and have regular breaks from sitting.
This helps to minimise the impact that sitting is having on your posture and spine.

3. Include regular exercise (mixture of aerobic, anaerobic and High Intensity Interval Training is best) and maintain social connectivity.
These two might seem unrelated but they are both vital to the overall balance of our brain. Although both sexes require these research is revealing that physical activity is vital to maintaining the main male sex hormone testosterone and social connectivity is vital for maintaining the balance of the main female sex hormone progesterone.

4. Do regular Emotional Stocktake.
Check on yourself. Write down your emotional stressors and drainers. How you are holding yourself can be reflective of how you feel inside. Emotional release techniques such as Neuro-Emotional Technique, Meditation and Counselling can help restore your emotional balance see here.

5. Volunteer your help and assistance to others.
There is research proving that volunteering can have big impacts on health. Participants in the study who spent time volunteering were as healthy as non-volunteers five years their junior. It doesn't always need to be formal volunteering either, helping a stranger or friend can be just as effective!

So there you go! A handy little gem on the interaction of posture, happiness and the role of spinal care. I hope you have found this newsletter interesting and if you have any questions please get in contact. Feel free to forward to anyone that you know who may be suffering from ongoing postural issues.

I look forward to seeing you in the clinic soon!

Kind Regards,

Dr Mark Symonds


BChiroSc, MChiro, C.C.W.P., NLP Master Coach



[1] Joel D, Berman Z, Tavor I, Wexler N, Gaber O, Stein Y, Shefi N, Pool J, Urchs S, Margulies D, Liem F, Hanggi J, Jancke L and Assaf Y (2015), “Sex beyond the genitalia: the human brain mosaic,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, retrieved 29 March 2017

[2] Hall M, McIvor C (2017), “Interview with the Australian Spinal Research Foundation,” Personal correspondence. Video available by request to members only.


[3] Teaching the Female / Male Brain – Abigail Norfleet James

[4] Scientific American – A Success in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s; April 2017

[5] Laterality: Asymmetries of Bordy, Brain and Cognition. 2013

[5] Nature Neuroscience.  2015,

[6] Bakhtadze M, Vernon H, Karalkin A, Pasha S, Tomashevskiy I, Soave D, (2012) “Cerebral Perfusion in patients with chronic neck and upper back pain: preliminary obs

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