1:10 Series of Habit Hacks for an Improved Lifestyle: POSTURE

I extend my gratitude to every person dedicating his or her time to reading my article. Thank you for joining me on the wellness journey and accepting baby steps to lead an improved life. My first writing series is ten articles addressing habit shifts to feeling better now. 

#1   P O S T U R E

"Don't slouch" is a phrase I grew up hearing as often as "Dinner's ready." I preferred to roll my eyes at the comment rather than take it to heart. In my mind, I had an explanation for every minute of my slouch: felt cold, felt tired, felt overwhelmed. 

Posture is commonly understood as affecting others' perception of us. Its importance to our being transcends that logic. An emerging understanding of embodied cognition has gained presence in cognitive science; there exists an innate relationship between our mind and body. Not only does the mind have a strong effect on the body, but also the body's position has a profound effect on the mind. A study conducted by Ohio State University, with scientist Richard Petty, evaluated the correlation of posture and self-confidence. Participants sitting upright had stronger confidence in their written statements (both negative and positive), proving that posture influences our thoughts. Awareness of this intrinsic relationship allows individuals, who seek assertion in their lives, to consider straightening their spines.

Posture affects our impressions of confidence, in others and ourselves, as well as our energy levels. Dr. Erik Peper, a psychophysiologist from San Francisco State University, identified the prominence of negative versus positive thoughts that entered the mind while slouching. In the conclusion of this study it states, "positive thoughts are easier to produce in an upright position (194)." In another study, the researcher evaluated energy levels of participants after walking in a slouched position versus skipping down the hallway. The findings of the study exposed substantially lower energy levels for all participants post-slouching. As depression rates rise and screen use increases, it is worth considering how much of our time is spent looking down and hunching over.

Posture is interconnected to our physical bodies' functions in terms of added tension, hormone levels, and digestion. Nobel Prize Winner Nicholas Tinbergen shed light on the relations between posture and body aches, as taught through the Alexander Technique. Frederick Matthias Alexander developed a process to correct people's posture and movement, knowing posture had a direct effect on the self. Dr. Tinbergen's speech in 1973 referenced two photos before and after implementing the Alexander technique. The before photo of the subject with improper posture highlighted tension in the buttocks, neck, and shoulder regions. Upon correcting posture, the muscular system redistributed body weight to avoid applying stress to unnecessary parts of the body. Dr. Amy Cuddy presented findings on hormone levels linked to posture during her 2012 TED Talk. Similarly, Dr. Peper sustained her assertion that two minutes change hormone levels in the body. After two minutes of standing in a "power pose" or skipping down the hallway, studies reveal a decrease in cortisol levels and increase in testosterone. Physically reducing our stress hormone, cortisol, leads to happier perceptions of circumstances and increases positive emotions.

Increasing instances of heartburn (GERD) and poor digestion are related to improper posture. When our spine is not in its naturally elongated state, our organs do not have the proper space to function. Sitting hunched over constricts the movement of blood throughout the body and minimizes space for our intestines. Digestive organs are slowed down in metabolizing food due to their constricted positions. Posture also affects our ability to breathe due to minimized diaphragm capacity. Allowing our vital organs to function properly and maintain our bodies in homeostasis requires correct posture.

Reversing the effects of bad posture can significantly impact mood, self-confidence, reduce body aches, balance hormones, improve digestion, and ease our breath. With these fragments of scientific studies in mind, I encourage us all to inhale deeply and on the exhale- roll shoulders back and down, engage our core, and keep our head held high. Greatest life transformations are results of the smallest habits shifts.   

 

References:

Cuddy, Amy. "Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are." Ted Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

McNerney, Samuel. "A Brief Guide to Embodied Cognition." Scientific American. https://scientificamerican.com/a-brief-guide-to-embodied-cognition-why-you-are-not-your-brai

Ohio State University. "Body Posture Affects Confidence In Your Own Thoughts, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091005111627.htm

Tinbergen, Nikolas. "Alexander Technique Description." Technique Alexander. https://youtu.be/XXr-9kQZ0ow

Wade, Mark. "Your Heartburn isn't just from your food. It's from your posture." American Posture Institute. https://americanpostureinstitute.com/your-heartburn-isnt-just-from-your-food-its-from-your-posture/

Wilson, V.E. & Peper, E. "The Effects of Upright and Slumped Postures on the Recall of Positive and Negative Thoughts." Applied Psychophysiol Biofeedback (2004) 29: 189. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:APBI.0000039057.32963.34

Wood, J. (2015). Poor Posture Can Affect Mood, Energy. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 27, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2012/10/16/poor-posture-can-affect-mood-energy/46112.html