Developing a perfect posture habit leads to greater confidence, health, and attractiveness. But how do you develop that habit? What is a habit?

According to Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit, a habit is defined by a Cue, Routine, and Reward. The cue is what sparks the habit, the routine is the action you go through, and the reward is what you go through the routine in pursuit of.

How Do You Develop Habits?

Here’s an example: say you have a habit of sleeping in every day. The cue in this case is probably your alarm clock going off. The routine you go through is hitting snooze and getting back in bed. And the reward is the cozy warmth under the covers that you can only experience right after waking up.

That would probably be considered a bad habit, but the same methodology can be used to understand good habits. Imagine exercising: your cue could be leaving your clothes out the night before and seeing them when you wake up. The routine is going for a run or to the gym. And the reward is the feeling of satisfaction and fatigue that comes with a good workout.

Going back to the sleeping-in habit, what do you do to change it? You usually have two options: find a new cue that you can react differently to, or find a new routine for the same cue that gives a similar reward. The first works sometimes, but the second is much more effective and easier to adopt.

In the sleeping-in case, you’d need to find a new routine that can be a response to the alarm going off and that still provides cozy warmth. Some options could be getting in a hot shower, or having a hot cup of coffee or tea. It’s not exactly the same, but it will usually suffice.

Good posture is tricky though…it doesn’t have the obvious cue-routine-reward relationship that sleeping in does. Bad posture is simply something we do all of the time. So, how do we fix it?

Let’s Build a Good Posture Habit

When there’s no clear, existing cue-routine-reward relationship we have to create one from scratch. It’s difficult, but it can be done. It requires identifying the routine we want, then finding a reward that can make it worth doing, then finding a cue to start the whole thing going. So let’s get started.

1. Find the Routine

This is pretty easy. You want good posture, so the routine is fixing your posture. That means pulling your shoulders back, making sure your head is up, making sure your lower back isn’t arched, and then keeping it all in place for long than a second or two. It can help to look in a mirror while you do this a few times to learn how good postures feels.

2. Find the Reward

This is where it starts to get tricky. I’m going to assume that you don’t want to carry a bag of Oreos around and give yourself a cookie every time you fix your posture–that would just lead to a new bad habit. So how do we reward ourselves for good posture? I see a few options:

  • Similar to exercising, it actually feels really good to stand up straight.
  • There’s the mental benefit of knowing you’re looking more confident and attractive.
  • Keep a checklist going of how many times you’ve fixed your posture, and try to beat your record each day.

But ultimately you’ll need to find what works best for you. So long as it’s motivating and keeps you doing it.

3. Now Find the Cue

This will be the hardest part. There’s no clear cue for posture since, ideally, it’s something you’re doing all of the time. Getting out of bed has a clear cue, not having dessert has a clear cue, but posture? That’s tricky.

In order to solve this, we’ll need to make up our own cues to spark the perfect posture habit. We can do this two ways: through event associations or through environmental associations.

To base your habit on an event, simply pick something that’s going to happen frequently that you can peg the good habit to. In this case, you might pick:

  • When you sit down, check your posture.
  • When you’re standing in line waiting for something, check your posture.
  • When you get up to get a coffee or tea, check your posture.
  • Walk to the bathroom and back with perfect posture.
  • When you check your email, check your posture.
  • Set an alarm to ping you every 15, 20, or 30 minutes to remind you to check your posture.

You can also pick an environmental cue that you peg the habit to, such as:

  • Become sensitive to other people’s posture; when you see someone slouching, correct your own.
  • Take a moment to recognize what it feels like when you slouch, become sensitive to that feeling and correct it throughout the day.
  • Keep checking that you’re sitting back in your chair and not slouching.

Of these I think the event association is best. It’s easiest to remember, and you’ll constantly be cued to check your posture. Pick a few of the event cues, write them down, remind yourself of them every morning, and as you keep correcting yourself you’ll find you need to remember to do it less and less. You’ll quickly develop a habit of perfect posture.

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