How Posture Affects Your Mental Well-being

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November 8, 2020

Sitting too much can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. But sitting with bad posture — like when you’re hunched over a computer — can make things even worse, particularly on your mental health.

Most people would think that posture has nothing to do with depression, but San Francisco State University experts have found that slouching can actually increase negative thinking.

When you look down, you have easier access to more hopeless, negative thoughts. Being slumped or hunched over is a powerless position, so you, in turn, feel defeated and tend to collapse — even if there’s nothing awful going on in your day. Poor posture can put you in a lousy mood and make you feel more stressed and depressed. But if you put yourself in an upright position, you tend to have more power and willingness to do a task. You can take charge of yourself, and other people tend to react to you positively. This is because our thoughts and emotions are represented in our body language.

Healthy Habits

Technologist and mental wellness advocate Alex Hanna recommends establishing a routine of healthy habits that provides benefits to your mental and physical health. Try to make exercise, adequate sleep, reading, writing, and some quiet time part of your routine. And in doing these things, you should always be aware of how you maintain your posture, the same way you’re trying to maintain your mental well-being.

For starters, be conscious about how you exercise. Strengthen your core through yoga, pilates, or similar programs targeting your entire core with slow, controlled movements. Men’s Health recommends several core exercises that can help boost your mental health, such as leg whips and short side planks. These all show how a strong mind needed to fight depression can come from a strong spine, too.

From our pain levels to our self-confidence, posture impacts us more than we think as we go about our day-to-day work. So, be mindful about how you sitPainfree Working points out how this is all the more important today, as most employees have transitioned to a work-from-home setup. Though it can be fun to work on your couch or on your bed, it’s easy to work with a bad posture, and this can have tremendous effect not just on your productivity, but also on your mental health. Use a chair with a backrest and keep your monitor at eye level to avoid slouching while reading or writing. And even during breaks or quiet time, make sure to keep this healthy posture to maintain good blood circulation to your head, getting rid of headaches and stress.

The same goes for how you drive. Keep the seat with just the right distance from the pedals and steering wheel to avoid straining to reach it. The headrest should support the middle of the head to keep it upright. This should improve your mood while driving, and give you better focus on the road, while avoiding muscle pain and fatigue.

Moreover, you also have to be aware of how you stand the same way while sitting. Whether you’re standing while working or taking a break, be sure to do so with your weight mostly on the balls of your feet, and not on your heels. Keep your feet slightly apart, around shoulder width. And if you find yourself standing for long periods of time, shift your weight from one foot to the other, or rock from heels to toes. Always stand straight and tall with your shoulders upright to exude confidence and make you feel good about yourself. 

One good break from work is walking, so it’s also important to be conscious of how you walk. Be sure to keep your head up and your eyes looking straight ahead. Avoid pushing your head forward and keep your shoulders properly aligned with the rest of the body. Like standing, walking with good posture ensures healthy blood circulation and proper breathing, which helps keep everything light in mind and body, and eliminates unexpected pain.

These healthy habits can help you follow your mother’s simple command since you were little — keep your back straight in whatever you do. It doesn’t only make you look confident on the outside, but it also helps you feel good and empowered on the inside.

Shane Davidson

Shane Davidson is a part-time fitness instructor based in Everett, and a proactive mental health advocate. When she’s not writing, she enjoys the outdoors through hiking or biking.

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