What’s a video of John Travolta as Tony Manero in 1983’s inferior Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive have to do with science?
Look how happy strutting makes him. That’s the key. He’s even happier than he was when he did whatever the heck it was he does at the end of that movie that inspired him to strut. It shows even meatheads like Manero have figured out something that scientists have recently caught on to. If you wanna change your mood, change your walk.
It’s obvious that people walk differently depending on their emotions. Bouncing along when they’re happy or trudging slump shoulder when they’re sad. But a recent study has shown you can flip the script and make yourself happier by choosing a happier walk.
“It is not surprising that our mood, the way we feel, affects how we walk, but we want to see whether the way we move also affects how we feel,” said Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Senior Fellow Nikolaus Troje (Queen’s University), a co-author on the paper whose past research has shown a strong connection between emotion and walking style.
To test whether it worked the other way around, Troje and his colleagues had subjects walk on treadmills while they showed them a list of positive and negative words such as “pretty,” “afraid” and “anxious” and measured their gait and posture.
A gauge on a screen in front of the subjects was used to measure how depressed or happy their walking style was, but the subjects were only told they needed to move the gauge right or left. They still picked up quickly on how the researchers wanted them to walk.
After the exercise the subjects were asked to write down as many words as they could remember. The ones who had adapted a mopey, depressed walking style remembered many more depressed words, evidence that it actually had an affect on their mood.
So there you go. If you’re feeling down, put some pep in your step and see if you can walk those blues away.