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“Sit Up Straight!” Study Finds Unexpected Benefits Of Good Posture

“Sit Up Straight!” Study Finds Unexpected Benefits Of Good Posture

How many times have you sunk down on the sofa while watching TV? Or worse, how often do you remember to sit up straight as you stab at your keyboard? If you are like me, you only remember to adjust your sitting position occasionally, and that is bad for your health.

The fact that we are bipeds means that our spine is subject to a lot of stress and strains. One of these is the force of gravity which keeps us on the planet but also tends to compress spinal discs, leading to chronic pain and muscle spasms. That is why some people use inversion therapy.

Gravity is mainly good for our bones and muscles, but it does tend to be an obstacle when we are carrying a backpack or pushing a bike uphill. That’s nothing when you talk to any astronaut who will tell you that the force of gravity can cause many problems when they get back to earth.

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So, let’s not blame gravity for all our aches and pains. I always thank gravity when I go downstairs and curse it on the way up! Inversion therapy can be rather expensive, so let’s look at how sitting up straight can really benefit our health. It does not cost anything and you will never need to venture into space!

You can breathe better

If you are leaning forward to see that computer screen or are slouching, then it is pretty obvious that proper breathing cannot take place. It is blocking the airways and that is interfering with oxygen getting to the nervous system and organs, impacting how they work. It can make as much as 30 percent difference.

Here is a bonus tip. If you are going for your dream job interview, try this trick. Take some deep belly breaths to help you relax the throat muscles and give you a deeper voice. Studies show that people with deeper voices are on the fast track for leadership posts.

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You will have more energy and optimism

Dr. Erik Peper, professor of holistic health from the San Francisco State University, has conducted research on how posture can affect mood, give you more energy, and even lift depression. He measured levels of optimism, energy, and mood on students who were asked to slouch down or skip down a hallway. Those who skipped had higher energy levels and less depression than those who had slouched. The same goes for our sitting position, as confirmed by a University of Auckland study.

Your concentration levels will get a boost

Did you know that your brain needs 100 billion neurons just to keep things ticking over? It also needs about 20% of our oxygen supply to keep it in top condition. The more oxygen we supply it from proper breathing by sitting up straight, the more we will be able to concentrate and focus better.

“Relaxed, straight sitting expands your chest, allowing you to take in a larger breath… and you’ll have more energy and focus.” — Dr. Golubic, medical director of Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Cleveland Clinic.

Your confidence will soar

When you enter a room, your posture says a lot about you. If you stand straight, you exude confidence and feel more self-assured. When you sit at meetings, your posture also sends a message. Assertive poses are known as power poses.

Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, gave a TED talk on this, which you can view here. The interesting thing is that even if you change your pose, you can gain poise! Two minutes can do the trick because that is sometimes sufficient to change levels of the cortisol stress hormone.

No harm in remembering that our body language, whether standing or sitting, is sending out signals to ourselves and others about our thoughts, attitudes, and emotions. Faking it till we make it at job interviews can actually work, according to Cuddy’s research.

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Your back will thank you

Who doesn’t have back pain every now and then? And what about shoulder, neck, and wrist pain? In many cases, poor posture when sitting down is the main cause, especially if we work using a computer.

Your desk may be too high or too low for you, meaning you are typing on an incline. Again, the computer screen may need adjusting so that it is at eye level. How we sit is crucial, because we should try to keep as upright as possible while pushing the hips back into the chair. This is very important in keeping the lower back’s arch or natural curve. Don’t cross your legs and try to keep feet flat on the floor. If your muscles are loose, you run the risk of putting too much stress on the tendons and ligaments. That can lead to repetitive strain injury (RSI).

Anthropologically, we were never meant to sit for long in freezing caves. Although we no longer need to hunt animals for food, we should get up and move around as often as we can, even if it is only for a few seconds.

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If you cannot remember to do all this, why not get a posture sensor? You can wear it around your waist and let it take over your posture management. This one monitors your breathing as well! Every time you start to slouch, or your breathing is below par, the sensor will vibrate. Now, that’s much better than somebody telling you to “Sit up straight!”

Featured photo credit: Osmond Group Limited via Flickr via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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