With more and more major careers involving a laptop, a desk, and our butts firmly in a chair, trying to heed our mother’s advice and sit up straight is a struggle most of us lose. After a few hours, inch by inch we’re hunched over the keyboard, and by the time we get home, we deserve to let our bodies unwind and slouch to our heart’s content.
But if you find yourself struggling with an imbalanced or always blue mood, observing proper posture could be the key to throwing yourself back into positivity, confidence, and capability. Studies have shown that posture has a profound effect on our body’s ability to regulate and improve our emotions, with some added bonuses to the rest of our health that can have you functioning at a higher level than before.
How does posture affect your mood, and how can you benefit from getting your spine into shape?
It’s hard to have a good mood while you’re aching all over, and sitting at your desk or lounging on your couch for long hours is associated with a sore back and aching joints for a reason. The human body was designed to maintain a certain structural integrity, and while slouching is more comfortable, you’re throwing that structure out of whack. This leads to muscles working overtime to keep all of your bones aligned while in a poor position, not to mention your spine is curved painfully and even your internal organs are being crunched together much tighter than they were intended. By assuming proper posture, you’re taking off the strain and allowing the better flow of pain-relieving chemicals, which can rush faster and with more precision to get rid of your aches, making you physically and mentally feel better.
Your body is working overtime to make up for the extra strain you’re placing on your muscles and spine when slouching. This causes a chain reaction throughout your body that sparks up unnecessary stress, which is a natural way of putting your system on alert that wrong needs to be fixed. As a result, you’re more likely to become stressed by an otherwise manageable situation and you are even experiencing a constant underlying stress so regular that you’ve come to accept it as normal. By making good posture a habit, your body will be able to relieve this extra strain and the stress that comes with it, giving you a boost of energy and a level of relaxation that you didn’t realize you’ve been lacking in your long career as a chronic sloucher.
When pollen or an encounter with a cat sparks up your allergies, your day and your mood are headed for a downward spiral. But by sitting up a little straighter, you can fight back against the symptoms. By slumping in your chair or letting your shoulders hunch as you walk, you’re compressing your spine and putting a strain on the space that exists between your nervous system and your joints, discs, and vertebras. As your spine pinches nerves or blocks the proper flow of chemicals throughout your body, your entire system has a roadblock that delays its reaction time and natural responses to any hits your immune system experience. When something as simple as allergies comes along to torment you, your body is already operating at a disadvantage.
With this in mind, by straightening your spine and improving your overall posture, you’re allowing for better blood flow, neural signal transmissions, and chemical flow which can go to work battling the symptoms of allergies as well as other ails.
Your physical pain is thrown into overdrive by slouching, but even if you feel like the day couldn’t get any worse from the aches, just remember – your body knows this and is actively trying to bring you relief, even if you don’t straighten up. And because it’s devoting its energy to this cause, it’s taking energy away from accurately distributing the natural hormones meant to improve your mood and take away stress. By straightening up, you’re allowing your system to free up its workload to focus on making you feel your best rather than handling damage control. The more you make observing proper posture a part of your routine, the more you’ll be training your body to distribute the positive hormones rather than going to pain relief as a default, improving your long-term mood as well as giving you that extra boost when you need it.
Posture has a huge effect on our body’s circulation and ability to feed oxygen to the brain more efficiently, which improves our memories. But even more importantly than being able to remember a few faces and names, this extra punch of oxygen literally puts our brains on the right track to improving our mood by taking us back to the good times. In an experiment conducted by Erik Peper at San Francisco State University, it was proven that when students straightened their backs and necks on a regular basis, they were immediately able to recall positive memories more clearly than before. So if you’re having a sour day or trying to remember that really awesome story from a few years back, just straighten up; your brain will be able to recall positive things more efficiently.
In a less scientific sense, posture improves your mood in the manner your mother always promised it would; it makes you look more respectable. By maintaining broad shoulders and a straight spine, you’re putting your body in its most visually appealing stance, accentuating your hips, chest, and neck. This makes you feel more capable, confident, and attractive. With this outward improvement, your physical and mental image of yourself will improve, boosting your mood.
Body language is a powerful thing. Because you’re feeling more confident with your great stance, you’re naturally reflecting this in how you walk, talk, and hold yourself. This projects strong, authoritative signals to those around you and encourages more positive responses in others, which will improve relationships, your efficiency at work, and your ability to solve problems throughout the day, further boosting your self-esteem and happy emotions. The more you train yourself to maintain proper posture, the easier it will come to you and the more this self-image will be ingrained into your identity, encouraging long-term confidence.
Whether it’s stress, long hours at a desk, health concerns, or even that horrible mystery reason for why your mood is down in the dumps, improving your posture can be the key to thrusting you back into top form. Going from a chronic sloucher to a picture of excellent stance isn’t a habit that is adopted immediately or easily; you’ll be forgetful at first. But by setting small reminders to check and improve every few minutes, you can look better and feel better. All it takes is aligning your ears with your shoulders and your shoulders with your hips.