We know all about ways to keep ourselves healthy. Go to the gym, avoid processed foods, drink lots of water, eat our vegetables … Those are the big ones. But there are other things that affect our health that tend to fade into the background, like our posture. Posture can actually affect both your physical and mental health. Luckily, posture can be an easy fix.

1. Depression

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Erik Peper, Professor of Health Education at San Francisco State University, conducted a study on posture and found that walking with a slouched or despondent body posture can lead to feelings of depression or decreased energy. He also found that simply choosing to alter your body posture into a more upright position can actually improve mood and energy levels.

“We tend to think the brain and body relationship goes one way… In fact, the passages go both ways,” he explained. “When you choose to put your body in a different mode, it’s harder to drop into depression.”

Peper believes that by integrating more body movements into your daily routine, your energy level will stay higher and your quality of life may improve. “It’s very similar to the principle of ‘fake it till you make it’ — you can convince your body to have more energy,” he said.

2. Muscle Pain and Fatigue

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If you often feel tired, tight, stiff or achy, it may be time to re-evaluate your posture. According to the Kansas Chiropractic Foundation, poor posture can be to blame for achy muscles and joint stiffness. If you have poor posture, your muscles have to work hard just to hold you up! You waste energy just moving, and you can put yourself at risk for “wear and tear” arthritis, or degenerative osteoarthritis.

A lifetime of poor posture can start a progression of symptoms that only gets worse. It starts with fatigue, then moves to tight and achy muscles in the neck, back, arms and legs, and progresses to joint stiffness and pain. More than 80% of the neck and back problems reported are the result of tight, achy muscles brought on by years of bad posture.

3. Stress

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A study published in the Health Psychology Journal randomly assigned participants to either a slumped or upright posture, and they completed a reading test. Their blood pressure and heart rate were continuously measured, and their mood and self-esteem were assessed. The study found that the upright participants reported higher self-esteem, a better mood and lower fear than the slumped participants. Linguistic analysis showed that the slumped participants used more negative emotion words, first-singular pronouns, words associated with sadness, and fewer positive emotion words during discussion.

So, adopting an upright position in the face of stress can help you to maintain self-esteem, reduce negative emotions and increase a positive mood, compared to a slumped posture. Slouching affects your breathing. It strains your lungs, which requires them to move faster to ensure the flow of oxygen, which in turn strains the heart and forces it to speed up to provide enough blood for oxygen and transport. This process can easily create stress on the body.

4. Unexpected Pain

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Poor posture can cause pain in unexpected ways. You might notice an achy back when you are slouching, but leaning your head forward while seated causes you to be more likely to clench your jaw. Tightening your facial muscles and clenching your jaw can lead to jaw pain and headaches. Clenching also causes you to grind your teeth, causing sensitivity. Repeated clenching can cause tension in the temporomandibular joint, which can wear it down and cause other health problems such as neck and upper back pain.

Poor posture can lead to a snowball of consequences!

5. Confidence

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Posture not only affects the way you feel, it can also affect how others see you. Standing tall with your head held high will help you feel more confident, and it will allow others to see you that way. Richard Petty, Professor of Psychology at Ohio State University, said, “Most of us were taught that sitting up straight gives a good impression to other people, but it turns out that our posture can also affect how we think about ourselves. If you sit up straight, you end up convincing yourself by the posture you’re in.”

Petty explained that if a student is sitting up straight while taking a test, he may be more likely to have confidence in his first answer. If he is slouching, he may end up changing his answer and not perform as well on the test. People’s thoughts are influenced by their posture, without realizing it.

So it’s true. Your posture is affecting both your physical and mental health! Let’s go over a few ways to improve your posture to ensure that you stay healthy and confident:

  • Exercise can be an important tool to maintaining good posture. When you exercise, focus on strengthening your core.
  • Sit with your back aligned against your chair and do your best to avoid slouching or leaning over. Keep your knees even with your hips or slightly higher, and make sure both feet remain flat on the floor. Make sure to get up, walk around and stretch every once in a while!
  • Stand with your weight mostly on the balls of your feet, not on your heels. Stand straight and tall with your shoulders upright. If you have to stand for a long period of time, shift your weight from one foot to the other. Avoid locking your knees.
  • Drive with your back firmly against the seat. Avoid leaning forward or having to strain to reach the wheel or the pedals. The headrest should be supporting the middle of your head, keeping it upright.

h/t: the every girl

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