Why Improving Your Posture Could Better Your Mental Health
It’d be a safe bet that you’re currently reading this on your smartphone with your head down and shoulders hunched.
Yep, the majority of us have major issues with poor posture and a number of studies suggest that it can have a serious impact on our mood. Experts say that the theory of embodied cognition is behind this affect. This is the idea that our body influences our mind just as much as our mind influences our body.
Recent research out of the University of Auckland found that sitting up straight can be used as a coping mechanism against stress. Another study on people with mild to moderate depression found that improving posture can increase positivity, reduce fatigue and decrease self-focus. A study published in the journal Biofeedback had similar findings – participants who slouched while walking felt more depressed and when they straightened their posture, their outlook and energy levels increased.
Some suggest that our increasing tendency to spend our days slumped behind a desk and looking down at a smartphone has had an effect on the rise of depression in recent years.
So what can we do to fix our posture pronto? Biomechanics and posture conditioning expert Dell-Maree Day has a few tips.
Firstly, move your spine away from the back of your chair and sit towards the front half of the chair. Place your feet on the floor directly under your knees with a fist-size space between your feet and knees. If possible elevate your computer so your eyes are looking at the top third of the screen so you are always gazing ahead, not downwards.
Now concentrate on breathing correctly. Look straight ahead sitting as tall and relaxed as possible – don’t strain anything – you’re looking to adopt an upright natural pose. Check your arms are relaxed. Breathe in through your nose, breathe out by blowing gently through your lips and think this thought: ‘sternum straight through to my spine’. This thought will ensure your mind alerts your body to fire your deepest abdominal muscles and your most important breathing muscle. You’ll feel these muscles flatten. This is ‘muscle memory’.
The aim is to stop work every hour and do five or six repetitions of this breathing exercise. As your body becomes more used to not slumping forward, or leaning back into your chair, you’ll find your body starts to breathe and sit this way naturally all the time.
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