A good mood may put a spring in your step. But the opposite can work too: purposefully putting a spring in your step can improve your mood. That’s the finding from a study in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. [Johannes Michalak, Katharina Rohde and Nikolaus F. Troje, How we walk affects what we remember: Gait modifications through biofeedback change negative affective memory bias]
Scientists showed volunteers a list of negative and positive words, like afraid and anxious, or sunny and pretty. Then the subjects had to walk on a treadmill while watching a gauge that moved left or right.
But here’s what the participants did not know: if their stance—for example, slumped shoulders—seemed to indicate a down mood the gauge moved to the left. If their walk was more upbeat, say with swinging arms, the gauge moved to the right. The scientists asked half the subjects to adjust their walking style until the gauge moved to the right, and the other half so that the gauge went the left. Each group quickly learned what adjustments moved the gauge in the desired direction.
Then the subjects had to write down as many words from the list that they remembered. And those who walked with a depressed gait recalled more negative terms, while the ones who were asked to walk in a more upbeat style came up with many more positive words.
Past research has shown that depressed people tend to remember negative words and happier people tend to remember happy words. So this study suggests that the way we walk influences our mental state. And that we can change our state by changing our gait.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]