Our bodies are hardwired to install habits. By making repetitive behaviors automatic, we free-up processing power for our brains. Instead of having to consciously decide to take each step on the trail home after a hunt, our ancestors adapted so that they could direct their attention to more urgent matters, like watching for predators in the distance.
Today, the power of habits can work for or against us, depending on whether we have Habits of Disease or Habits of Health installed. Something as simple as our posture comes down to habit. With a little bit of mindfulness, correcting your posture can actually ripple into other areas of your health, giving you an extra momentum for your workouts and even your emotional wellbeing.
Here are just a few of the benefits of proper posture:
- Sitting up straight might reduce stress and increase confidence. The idea of “fake it till you make it” might have some truth to it. Assuming a confident posture, like a superhero pose or simply sitting up straight might actually influence your brain chemistry in a positive way.
- Poor posture could lead to pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, leaving your body out of healthy alignment for long periods of time can strain muscles and support structures in your body, leading to aches and pains. Experiencing this sort of steady pain could discourage you from enjoying other healthy activities!
- Variety is the spice of life, even when it comes to posture. If you’re struggling with your posture, the problem might be that you spend too much time sitting, which in itself opens you up to a host of potential problems. If you take the time to stand, and walk around more often, you help guard yourself against a number of challenges associated with long periods of sitting still.
Fully correcting poor posture can actually take quite a bit of work. It’s possible that old injuries have forced your body into poor movement habits. You might also have areas of your body that are overly tight or perhaps even excessively weak that place additional strain on your posture as your body fights to compensate. For these reasons, a complete posture overhaul actually requires a broader lifestyle change that includes a balanced workout routine and a set of consistent maintenance movements and stretches.
To get you started, though, we can start simple. Even a simple win can be a big win, so don’t discount it. Try starting with these four tips:
- When you’re walking or standing, think about having a book on your head (yes, like they might have made you do in grade school). This visualization forces you to align your spines, hips, and shoulders to find a better balance. If you slouch, which is bad, the book falls. So back straight, chin up, and chest slightly forward as you pull your shoulders into a straighter line.
- If you’re sitting, a lot of the principles for walking apply too. Picture a book on your head, square your shoulders, and straighten out that slouch. The environment around you, however, is almost just as important. Use a chair with proper ergonomic support and set your keyboard in a comfortable position.
- Don’t forget about all of the in-between moments as well. If you’re driving, try to maintain proper posture. If you’re sitting for a long period of time, try to stand and walk around once or twice an hour even if it’s just to take a phone call.
- Talk to your physician about your health history and for tips about improving your posture that is specific to you. If you are experiencing chronic back pain or neck pain, some physical therapy or corrective exercises could potentially alleviate some of that discomfort, and your physician will have the insights into your health history to help you identify those opportunities.
I hope that you are sitting up straighter by now. That’s great! Keep it up!