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How to Feel Happy Just by Walking Differently

From Psyblog

Our mood clearly affects how we walk, but how does our walking style affect our mood?

It’s well-known that when we’re in a good mood, our style of walking tends to reflect how we feel: we bounce along, shoulders back, swinging our arms in style.

Sometimes, just from our gait, it’s more obvious to other people how we feel than to ourselves.

Now, a new study finds that it also works the other way around: people who imitate a happy style of walking, even without realising it, find themselves feeling happier (Michalak et al., 2015).

The study had participants walking on a treadmill after looking at a list of positive and negative words.

While on the treadmill each person’s gait and posture was continuously measured and fed back to them visually.

On the screen they had to try and move a bar either one way or the other by changing their walking style.

Although they didn’t realise it, walking in a happy way made the bar move in one direction and walking in a depressed way moved it the other.

Nikolaus Troje, who co-authored the study, explained:

“They would learn very quickly to walk the way we wanted them to walk.”

Afterwards, they were asked to write down as many of the positive and negative words that they’d been shown earlier.

Those who’d been walking in a happy, upbeat way remembered more of the positive words, suggesting they were happier.

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