Slouching, hunching over, tight muscles and unnatural positioning – all this leads to bad posture and ultimately a host of problems.
How many times were you told as a child to sit up straight and stop hunching? And if we’re parents now, we find ourselves saying the same thing to our children. For many of us with desk-bound jobs, sitting down and staring at a screen for hours inevitably leads to tight shoulders, a stiff neck and even headaches; this also affects our overall posture.
Besides the obvious negative physical effects, poor posture also has an adverse impact on our mental and emotional state. Studies have been conducted to understand the link between bad posture and mood change, and one of the main results encountered was that sitting in a slumped position indicated being dejected and unhappy.
By sitting in an upright position, a person gives off positive vibes, confidence and is unlikely to feel tired and overwhelmed. The conclusion is that good posture isn’t just about looking good and feeling attractive, it goes much deeper. Research has shown that when a person was asked to perform a stressful task, good posture contributed to its successful completion and there was less fear and more enthusiasm.
Slumping and depression
We have all had those days when it’s just too much and we’re too tired and stressed to manage it. These are the times when our posture suffers and our bodies seem to automatically withdraw – shoulders slumped, back hunched, head down. For those who have depression, this position can be the norm and lead to physical problems as well as amplifying existing mental and emotional symptoms.
A 2017 study conducted by the University of Auckland asked the question of whether improving posture would impact people with depression. A group of participants with mild to moderate depression were put into two groups – usual posture and upright posture. Those in the latter group were told how to sit up (straight back, level shoulders, head up looking ahead) while those placed in the usual posture were allowed to sit how they wanted. In these positions, a stress-inducing task was given involving counting backwards and giving a speech with mood changes and stress levels measured along the way.
Unsurprisingly, those who were sitting properly were able to perform better and were less tired and stressed. For people who don’t have depression but have the occasional off day of sadness and stress, even a small change like sitting and walking with head held high and shoulders back will almost immediately change the mood.
Tips to improve posture
Bad posture develops over time (sometimes without us even noticing) and can become very difficult to remedy. The first thing to do is be aware of your body, e.g. as you work at your desk, be aware of your shoulders tightening upwards, your head moving forward or if your back is hunched. Take note of physical aches in your neck, shoulders and back; check that your body is correctly aligned and follow these simple tips to improve posture.
Stand up straight!
Stand tall, relax your shoulders, tuck in your stomach and keep your head level. This position should feel natural and not forced.
Whether you’re sitting at your desk for hours or even at the dining table for the length of a meal, seat posture matters. Make sure the chair is at the right height to get comfortable, keep the screen at eye level, sit up straight and keep your shoulders relaxed.
If your muscles feel tired and strained, get up and move around. Have a good stretch, short walk around for a few minutes or even just standing up helps ease tightness.
Exercise and keep fit
The answer to many of our health and posture problems is to keep fit, strengthen muscles and prevent injury. Walking, running, cycling and swimming are ideal to improve core strength and give us the confidence to walk tall.