If you’re feeling down in the dumps, take a look in the mirror. How’s your posture? Raise your shoulders and stand up straight. You might be surprised at how quickly your mood lifts.
Of course, slouching can also affect how others see you. Standing up straight creates an impression of self-confidence, power and importance. But studies have also shown that posture affects how we feel about ourselves.
“Health Psychology” reports that, in one experiment, people who sat — or stood — up straight felt more enthusiastic, excited and strong. Meanwhile, their counterparts who adopted a slouching position expressed more fear, hostility, nervousness, passivity and sluggishness. Those who remained in an upright posture also scored higher on self-esteem and lower on measures of social anxiety.
Similarly, researchers from Harvard University have found that people who adopt an upright posture can experience up to a 25 percent decrease in their levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Slouching subjects, however, can see their stress levels increase by as much as 15 percent.
Feeling a bit down, grouchy, stressed or generally negative can happen anytime, and at home, school or work. Try shaking it off by improving your posture with one of these quick fixes.
Adjust your seat.
When you’re sitting, the angle of your seat is important. Your hips should remain parallel to your knees, and you should only recline your back to about a 100- to 110-degree angle. If you are still sitting too low after adjusting your seat, try using a cushion or a wedge. Don’t neglect your car seat either, especially if you have a long commute.
Use a lumbar support.
Beware rounding your lower back. If your desk chair doesn’t have lumbar support, purchase a lumbar support pillow or simply use a rolled up towel to help preserve the natural arch of your lower back.
Try doing some simple stretches throughout the day. You can perform the following exercises at your desk or in the car. Each one will help elongate your spine, relieve compression and prevent back pain and discomfort.
- Tuck your pelvis toward the rear of your seat.
- Place your hands on your armrests (or the sides of your seat), gently push down and bend slightly forward at your waist.
- Relax your arms, roll your shoulders backward and gently tuck in your chin.
Do wall angels.
This exercise is a bit more intense. Consider making it part of your regular fitness routine. Squat with your back against the wall and place your knees at a 90-degree angle as if you are sitting in a chair. Rest your arms on the wall with your elbows also bent at 90 degrees. Bring your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Without removing them from the wall, raise and lower your arms. Wall angels strengthen the muscles of the upper back and help prevent both a persistent slouching and rounded shoulders.
Don’t sit on your wallet.
Before sitting down, empty your back pockets. That means taking out your wallet, phone and any other personal items. Sitting on your wallet, no matter how thin it is, prevents your pelvis from resting in a neutral position.
It’s that simple. If you want to feel better, reduce stress and avoid backaches, keep your muscles toned and flexible by practicing good posture and sticking to a regular exercise routine.