“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.” This quote from the remarkable Helen Keller, who was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, is an inspiring reminder that how we hold ourselves often has a direct relationship to how we feel, act and think.
In wintertime, our tendency is to hunch forward, protecting our body’s inner warmth and protecting ourselves from the wind, snow and bitingly dry air. There are compelling reasons to stand up to the cold, though. Here are three:
1) You’ll Breathe More Deeply
When you stand with your head held high, square-shouldered and strong against whatever your day asks you to move through, you physically open your body so you can draw deeper, fuller breaths into your lungs. Standing straight and upright allows your body to breathe without having to struggle past tight muscles and collapsing ribs. Give yourself the gift of a strong, deep breath.
2) You’ll Connect with Others
When my family first moved into our house, a neighbor quipped that while everyone is very friendly, there’s a weird way in which we all disappear from January to March, because everyone is rushing to come in from the cold. The payoff is that in the spring, we rediscover our friends and neighbors anew. But if you set an intention to hold your head high during the winter months, you might find yourself smiling and greeting others in a way that warms you right up.
3) You’ll Think More Positively
Psychologists have studied the relationship between posture and emotional outlook. One 2004 study found that people who sit or stand in a hunched-over position reported more hopeless, helpless, powerless and negative memories than those who rolled their shoulders back and looked straight forward. Try to hold an upright posture as much as possible during the day, including when you’re relaxing on the sofa or standing in line at a cafe, and notice what impact that change has on your positive thoughts.
Of course, it bears mentioning that not all of us are physically able to “stand up straight.” But adjusting your physical posture in either a standing or seated position, or even just mentally lifting our eyes upward, as Helen Keller did, can give any of us the fresh perspective we need to embrace the cold of winter.