Take a moment to do a bit of a self-assessment. As you read this article, what does your posture look like?
Are you sitting straight up in a desk chair? Walking around with your neck bent over a mobile device? Slumped forward with an elbow on your desk? However you are positioned as you read this, take a moment to think about it. The pose you’re in right now is probably the default you have for most of the day.
We’ve all heard some variation of “sit up straight,” often drilled in from school days. As we get involved in study and work though, it’s easy for a slouching posture to become normal. The thing is that age-old advice to mind your posture is actually correct. Posture can have quite an impact on your overall health and wellbeing…
Posture and mental health
Several studies have examined links between posture and mental health. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you’ve probably heard of “power poses,” strong, upright positions that are said to help you boost energy and self-esteem.
It turns out that there is scientific backing to these sorts of poses. A San Francisco State University study looked at how students’ thinking changed when they were asked to recall negative and positive memories. They were asked to do this twice – once while in a slumped position and once while sitting upright. Eighty-six percent of the students reported that it was much easier to recall negative memories in the slumped position. Eighty-seven percent found it easier to remember positive things while sitting in an erect position.
Slumping is a position of defeat. Professor of Health Education, Erik Peper calls being hunched or slumped over a “defensive, powerless position.” Looking down gives people more access to hopeless thoughts, while in that defensive position, you will struggle to think abstractly as the body subconsciously defends itself against danger.
In an earlier San Francisco State University study, it was found that walking in a slouched position lead to more feelings of depression or low energy, as compared to walking more upright. Dr. Peper found through this research that altering your body posture to a more upright position can improve mood and energy levels.Slouching and poor posture can lead to feelings of depression or low energy Click To Tweet
Studies from Harvard University also back up the link between posture and mental health. Preliminary findings indicate that keeping an upright posture can improve symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety.
Posture can seem like a small thing, but how many of us may be affected mentally by a tendency to slump? Being an entrepreneur often involves hours of time in front of a screen and when you’re not focusing on it, how easy is it to slouch? Did you just automatically try to straighten yourself up while reading that?
Our career choices impact what we do with our bodies physically, and therefore mentally as well. Researchers have found office workers are more prone to anxiety and depression than manufacturing workers – could part of this come down to hours sitting?
Let’s not forget the role that the now ubiquitous smartphone can play. This is important, not only in terms of your own habits, but those of your kids (users of all ages are being diagnosed with the very 21st century problem of “text neck”). Extended periods with the weight of your head tilted forward toward your phone are not good, from both a mental and physical health perspective.
Posture and physical health
Raise your hand if you’ve already had treatment for neck, back, hip, or shoulder issues. Yep, many in an entrepreneurial environment have seen doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists for injuries that likely stem from how we perform our work.
Posture can chronically impact your physical health and the thing is, it can get worse over time. Good posture is important for balance, and for maintaining correct form while exercising. When we have poor posture it impacts form, which leads to more injuries. An injured muscle or limb can lead to us over-compensating somewhere else in the body, leading to further injury.
Sitting with poor posture (including having your legs crossed) impedes blood and oxygen flow through the body. This can fatigue you and make it more difficult to think, and can also lead to issues such as spider veins. Other consequences of being folded up are heartburn and slowed digestion.
These physical symptoms may pale in comparison to the potential consequences of extended periods of sitting. We can’t forget that excessive sitting is linked with death and disease. A recently published longitudinal study found that people who sat for longer periods were more likely to die from 14 different chronic diseases (including cancer and heart disease).
This is definitely not the most cheerful news for anyone who spends a lot of time sitting at work, but the good news is that you can make instant, simple fixes. The best start? Be aware of how much time you spend sitting and your posture overall.
Posture and your overall success
Let’s talk about another area of health, one that can impact you physically and mentally – that of your career or business. It’s fair to say that when things are going great career-wise, you often feel good both physically and mentally.
What does posture have to do with your career or the success of your business? There are a number of potential areas affected. First, consider those “power poses” again. It turns out that these strong, confident poses can help to increase testosterone in the body and lower cortisol, the stress hormone. This is associated with greater confidence and power. It’s easy to see how this can impact business negotiations and team management.
Second, when we flip that around to someone with poor posture, consider the impression they create with others. Slouching, hunched backs, or closed body language can make someone appear tired, disengaged, or unapproachable. It might appear that you lack confidence, which is definitely not something you want to communicate when finding investors for your venture!
Like it or not, we do judge people on body language, and posture is one of the factors that comes into that judgment. The health of your business can do better or worse based on how you present yourself.
We all know the importance of healthy sleep, food, and exercise. Let’s add posture to that list too. Posture problems are common in this age of heavy computer and smartphone usage, but we can take action to correct any issues.
An unhealthy posture affects how you see yourself, how others see you, and your overall mental state. It can lead to physical health issues that can snowball as time goes on.
Take a minute now to check in with yourself. Could your posture do with a shake-up? Consider some of the simple ways above to improve your posture and benefit your overall health.