Let’s face it – billions of people around the globe are now using their mobile devices as shown in the far right example in the picture below. Are you one of them? I know I do this more often than I would like to admit.
This image is an extract of a recent study that shows how such a wrong posture puts a lot more stress on the spine, accelerating damage and leading to possible spine surgeries.
The problem is that slouching towards your device has become more or less the norm and we might not even be aware of it most of the time.
Random free stock picture of guy tilting his head 90° towards his device
One of the many problems of this is that over time, bad posture can also cause severe muscular problems and pain. Excruciating pain. I know this from experience.
First of all, pregnancy put a lot of pressure on my spine and after having my babies, I experienced continuous back pain and muscular cramps. They got so bad that I even had an episode of muscular spasms in the lower back. And that to me was more painful than the experience of giving birth to my baby without any medication whatsoever. Ouch!
What I found particularly interesting and something we are not thought at all in school is what happens in the body while we slouch and what happens when we correct our posture. I have this on my list of stuff we should include in the curriculum of the future – the neurochemistry of high-power and low-power postures.
Jordan Peterson has a whole chapter about this in his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
So I would definitely recommend you read a bit more about this, things will start making so much more sense. It is even showed in this study that upright posture improves the emotional problems of people dealing with depression.
New moms – this goes out especially to you. If you are anything like I was, you might find yourselves into a slouched position very often while breastfeeding or holding your adorable sweet baby. I do believe it is very important to pay special attention to your posture, because of all the implications stated above.
What is good posture?
via Cleveland Clinic
A good posture is one where the least strain possible is placed on the muscles and ligaments, whether sitting, standing or lying down. For sitting and standing it can also be defined as ears aligned to shoulders, shoulder blades retracted. While standing, the spine should be able to keep its 3 normal curves, as seen above.
What can you do to improve your posture?
Here is my take on the most important things I believe you can do in order to improve your posture for good.
1. Aim to get as competent as you can in a field of your liking
Yes, I know, you were not expecting this. But it is seriously what worked for me. I’m not sure about the science on this one, but getting better at my job was the first thing that helped me deal with my anxiety, slouching and bad posture.
Whether it is cooking, sewing, blogging, customer care, teaching, you name it – aim to consistently improve your skills. Pick something to care about and focus on this as often as you can. It is probably the best thing you can do for yourself and others. Competence will increase your confidence and will inspire other people to do the same.
Power poses and paying attention to your posture by themselves are not as effective. Especially if you are beating yourself down with your negative thoughts internally. So be gentle to yourself as you are learning new things and remember that we all make mistakes in order to learn.
2. When you are sitting, keep your neck vertical, not tilted forward
Bring the phone/table/laptop closer to eye level rather than bending your neck down towards it. Place your computer monitor in a position that helps you look at it vertically, not down.
3. Breathe deeply into your lungs
Breathing is in fact deeply connected to posture. It is an observed fact that when we are relaxed and calm, our breath is deeper and slower. However, as soon as we feel pain, tension or we become afraid, our breath becomes shallow. And shallow breathing is the worst because it negatively impacts the entire body, constantly keeping it in a state of stress.
Scientific American has a great piece on proper breathing. The author shares the 365 breathing method, recommended by therapists to counter accumulated stress – 3 times a day, 6 breaths per minute (5 seconds in, 5 seconds out) for 5 minutes. Repeat this all 365 days of the year.
4. Keep your shoulders back and relaxed
If you are standing, your neck should be straight and your shoulders relaxed and parallel to your hips. When sitting, a habit of hunching over a phone or keyboard can long term create shoulder and upper back stiffness. So try to keep your shoulders as relaxed as your body allows you to at the moment.
Try a youtube yoga video at home. Join a yoga for relaxation class in your area, I found these to be great for beginners. In Germany, my health insurance covers yearly a small amount of money (about 170 $) if I choose to do yoga or any kind of fitness activity that is a preventive health measure. So you can check out if you have this option with your health insurance, in order to save up on this.
6. Do exercises that improve your posture
Yoga is again my go-to here. The video below has a combination of exercises you can start doing right now in your living room.
7. Get an affordable standing desk
This is a big money saver, you don’t need to buy a super expensive high desk. My husband purchased online a floating wall desk for only 30 $.
8. Don’t sit or stand too much
Even if your posture is correct, alternate between the two during the day. I know we tend to get into focus mode when we sit down at our computers, but it is good to keep in mind to alternate between sitting and standing every hour at least.
9. Sleep in the correct positions
Although not the most popular, the best sleeping position is on your back, with a small pillow under the knees for support. If this is not for you, read about other good sleeping positions here.