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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 September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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