The Benefits of Standing Tall


“To those who have everything, more will be given; from those who have nothing, everything will be taken.” (Matthew 25:29)

I recently revisited one of my favorite Ted Talks, which you can see here. The talk highlights the importance of good posture and the positive effects it will bring to you. I had seen this years ago and had forgotten that this lead to one of my daily rituals which I use to help prime me for the day. A funny sight indeed, (after watching the talk it may make sense) I stand after my workout and for a few moments hold my fists clenched in the air above my head. As you find out in the talk this has been shown to raise your testosterone and decrease cortisol. An easy win to start the day!

It turns out that this hormonal response to posture is over 350 million years old, as we find out in Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For LIfe. This can be used for or against you in a feedback loop.

Peterson describes the hierarchy of the lobster and how it is established through battle, and what happens after a losing battle: “In the aftermath of a losing battle, regardless of how aggressively a lobster has behaved, it becomes unwilling to fight further, even against another, previously defeated opponent. A vanquished competitor loses confidence, sometimes for days. Sometimes the defeat can have even more severe consequences. If a dominant lobster is badly defeated, its brain basically dissolves. Then it grows a new, subordinate’s brain—one more appropriate to its new, lowly position.  Its original brain just isn’t sophisticated to manage the transformation from king to bottom dog without virtually complete dissolution and regrowth. Anyone who has experienced a painful transformation after a serious defeat in romance or career may feel some sense of kinship with the once successful crustacean.”

When the newly defeated lobster travels around it now has a slouched posture. Peterson goes on to describe the hormonal effects of the newly victorious lobster with its tall posture:

A lobster with high levels of serotonin and low levels of octopamine is a cocky, strutting sort of shellfish, much less likely to back down when challenged. This is because serotonin helps regulate postural flexion. A flexed lobster extends its appendages so that it can look tall and dangerous, like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti Western. When a lobster that has just lost a battle is exposed to serotonin, it will stretch itself out, advance even on former victors, and fight longer and harder. The drugs prescribed to depressed human beings, which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, have much the same chemical and behavioural effect. In one of the more staggering demonstrations of the evolutionary continuity of life on Earth, Prozac even cheers up lobsters.  High serotonin/low octopamine characterizes the victor. The opposite neurochemical configuration, a high ratio of octopamine to serotonin, produces a defeated-looking, scrunched-up, inhibited, drooping, skulking sort of lobster, very likely to hang around street corners, and to vanish at the first hint of trouble. Serotonin and octopamine also regulate the tail-flick reflex, which serves to propel a lobster rapidly backwards when it needs to escape. Less provocation is necessary to trigger that reflex in a defeated lobster.

This new chemical balance creates a feedback loop for the lobster (or human) that can spiral in a positive or negative direction. The top lobster has the best shelter, is well rested, and eats better than the lowly lobsters. This only further establishes the dominance in the hierarchy (relevant to the opening quote). Serotonin dictates the posture in the lobster, and the same is true for the human. As we learned in the Ted-Talk, posture can also influence your serotonin levels. Higher serotonin means more confidence, less stress, more happiness, less illness and a longer lifespan.

Standing tall will help you step towards the challenges of your day with confidence instead cowering at a challenge in defense. It will encourage the serotonin and testosterone to flow through your neural pathways and veins. Strike a power pose to start your day, and mind your posture throughout!


Standing by Mourad Mokrane from the Noun Project


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