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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

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Robert Locke

Freelance writer

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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