You’ve no doubt heard that smiling (even if you’re not happy) can make you feel better. Now it turns out that sitting up straight can also improve your mood!

While not everyone who slouches is suffering from depression, slumped posture is one of the classic signs used to help diagnose the mood disorder. So researchers wondered whether purposely adjusting posture would have an effect on mood. They designed a study that asked people who experienced symptoms of depression to sit up straighter. The results are encouraging—to say the least!

Using 61 patients assessed to have mild-to-moderate depression, researchers from The University of Auckland, New Zealand, randomly selected half of them and asked them to sit with their usual posture (which was in every case at least somewhat slumped)…and asked the other half to sit up tall and straight. Both groups then had physiotherapy tape, which is an adhesive elastic tape used to give support and stability to joints and muscles without affecting range of motion, applied to help them maintain whatever posture they had assumed. Participants then completed a verbal test that was designed to make them feel stressed. Their mood was then measured with both questionnaires and through the words they spoke.

Results: Based on the test results, participants who sat upright demonstrated a more positive mood and less fatigue, compared with those who stayed in their usual slumped positions. The straight-sitters also spoke more, seemed to have less anxiety and generally adopted a less negative outlook.

While this is a small study and involved only sitting, not standing, it certainly suggests that straightening your posture is an easy, side-effect–free way to boost your mood in the short term—whether you’re feeling depressed or just having a bad day. And that’s not the only good reason to give how you sit and stand some thought. Slumping, jutting your head forward to read a computer screen and other bad habits can contribute to a host of problems besides depression, including muscle pain and injury when performing regular activities such as getting dressed or carrying groceries. Learning how to align your head, neck and back properly can help avert these problems.

To get your body back in the habit of good posture, a simple “rolldown” exercise against a wall can help retrain your muscles. For how to do it, plus other posture-perfecting moves, read Bottom Line’s “No More Slouching: Easily Improve Your Posture with 3 Simple Exercises.”

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