Want a serotonin boost completely built into the capabilities of your body? Good, we do to. No… grownups weren’t wrong when they told you to stop slouching as a kid. They might have primarily done it to conserve your still delicate spine and were considered more with aesthetics, but there is a whole other thing going on there. Inadvertently you got one of the best advices ever for the rest of your life. Standing up straight is a mirroring of the inside and outside and a deeply rooted mechanism of dealing with life’s trials and tribulations. As within, so without. It’s a dominance hierarchy thing whatever the hierarchy you’re in – and you’re always in one or multiple at the same time. The brain has an inbuilt counter that tells you what our place in the hierarchy is, deriving it from our posture, reactions and the way we’re treated by others.
Biology is not dumb and it doesn’t waste resources. When it finds something that works it automates it, builds it into your blueprint and makes it a staple through multiple branches of life. Some things go so deep that they are completely pervasive through anything living. Body posture, and its biochemical application and resonance, are some of those ultimate truths in all living things that can assume a posture and the mechanism for it is older than trees themselves.
Lobsters, who viewed dinosaurs as the new guys on the block on the time arrow, are already quite aware of the hierarchy and are constantly battling for prime places to live, the best food source and the right to be the top dog (lobster) and reproduce. If you’re a lobster that wins most fights you have a high status and your body chemistry is different than that of a lobster which is continuously defeated. Vice versa is true as well and feedback loops go both ways reinforcing themselves in each new looping. Loop is a loop neutral in itself as a concept. The positive and negative effects of the loop, on the other hand, are yours to work with and govern. We all have the biology already in place, you just need to learn to work with it.
A lobster winner will secrete more serotonin and far less octopamine and with the looser lobster it is reverse. These compounds affect what the lobster looks like and the way it holds itself. The winner struts, flexed and opened, looking proud and able, the looser shrugs, cringes, warps and makes itself look smaller and it actually really feels worse, making it less likely to fight again and try to get a better social position. If a continuous winner loses to many times in a row his brain will literally dissolve from the blow of a chemical shift towards octopamine and he’ll grow a new subordinate brain which sees itself as a looser. He will shrink, shrug and bend in powerlessness, although the body strength that won the battles before is still here. If you were to give antidepressants to the lobster looser, he’ll get better at producing serotonin again, will be willing to fight again and will immediately straighten its posture to signal dominance. We have the same neurochemistry governing our actions, behaviors and posture – and it gets better: It works both ways – a change in the posture and mimic results in change in biochemistry and perception of reality and our place within it.
Try smiling for a while and see if it makes you feel happier. Try standing up straight when faced with a difficult task and you’ll feel more confident in our abilities almost immediately. Your outlook on what you’re about to tackle will change, making you more willing to face it, handle things and fight. It might be an almost impossible feat to stand up straight when defeated because – you just don’t feel like it – as you’re signaling your defeat, just a lobster would – but try to change the posture no matter how uncomfortable it may feel in the first couple seconds. We can actually fake it till we make it and the change in the body position changes the brain which enters into a feedback loop with the body again and reinforces itself. You can dig yourself out of a ditch by just following what your grandma told you when you were a toddler. Stand up straight today, push your shoulders back, lift your head and go handle that thing that’s been hanging over you. It might just save your life and sanity.