There is no doubt that proper posture brings good health, but what many people don’t know is that maintaining a good, healthy posture brings just as many advantages to your mental health as it does your physical health. And as we know from keeping up with Anxiety Gone, health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. It isn’t just physical, or emotional, and ‘being healthy’ does not simply mean the absence of disease or infirmity. Beyond being physically healthy, let us now explore how proper posture and mental health correlate.
What is a good posture?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, posture is the stance in which you proceed with your daily tasks. These tasks and postures may even be divided into two categories:
- the dynamic posture: when you are moving about and doing things, such as during walking, running, or bending over to get something;
- the static posture: when you are not moving and are sitting, standing, or sleeping
Recommended positions for proper posture
Proper posture entails giving the least stress to your muscles and ligaments (the elastic fibers that keep your bones together) as you go about the movements (or lack of) as mentioned above. To help you understand the benefits of maintaining good, it is important to keep in mind that your spine has three natural curves, at your neck, mid back, and low back. These should be maintained in a neutral positive (not overarched) to achieve a good posture.
The following are the recommended positions for good posture in the corresponding tasks:
Proper posture for walking
Stand straight with relaxed shoulders; your head looking straight ahead and your chin up. Core muscles (or the muscles on your abdomen and back) should be tightened for core strength (and to take the pressure off of your spine and back). Your arms should swing back and forth at your sides and your steps should be made from heel to toe and not the other way around.
Proper posture for sitting
The rule of thumb for proper sitting posture is to never be in the same exact position for 30 minutes — take breaks (by walking around) and switch positions often. Your feet should touch the floor without moving the back of your knees too far from the edge of the seat. (Ergonomic office chairs help you achieve the proper positioning). Relax your shoulders and keep your elbows as close to your body as possible. Make sure your back, hips, and thighs are properly supported and avoid slouching and crossing your legs together.
Exercises for Proper Posture
Some exercises can help in correcting the posture by relieving the stress and tension and strengthening the muscles involved in maintaining good posture. These include the following:
- Bridges, when done properly, help by strengthening the core muscles, shoulders, and glutes, which thereby improve your balance and ease your lower back pain. These improve your posture when sitting down, standing, and when lifting heavy objects.
- Planks target your back, chest, shoulders, neck, and abs, which, as mentioned earlier, are important components in maintaining proper posture. When done properly, planks help in maintaining a neutral position due to ease of movement of muscles that this exercise targets.
- Hip flexor stretches improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles they target (the hip flexors), thus loosening the hip flexor muscles and joints, leading to relief of low back pain. With less stress and improved strength of these muscles, balance and coordination will be improved, and, consequently, your posture will also be improved.
- The Mountain Pose or Tadasana is a basic yoga position that is said to be the foundation of standing yoga poses. It targets the back muscles, therefore strengthening them, which then help these muscles in keeping your balance and maintaining neutral position, which are essential in keeping a good posture.
- The Child’s Pose is another yoga pose in which the muscles of the back, hips, thighs, and ankles are stretched and strengthened. This yoga exercise also helps relieve lower back pain and improve your posture similar to the other exercises mentioned above.
You can also use a posture corrector (I am obsessed with mine).
Benefit of maintaining proper posture
Maintaining proper posture brings in many health benefits, most notably on the musculoskeletal system, as it helps with spine alignment, avoiding muscle strain, and avoiding back pain. But that’s not all…
Good posture for better focus and attention
Good posture brings better lung function, which helps carry more oxygen to all parts of the body, especially the brain. More oxygen and blood flow means better brain functioning and you are able to think more efficiently and effectively. In fact, a study by Zloteanu, et al. (2021) has found out that the sitting posture of judges has an effect on how they perceive who the truth-teller or liars are, which may be due to differences in attention of the judges, ability to focus on nonverbal cues, and in their information processing.
Good posture for a better stress response
Proper posture contributes to better stress management as demonstrated by the study of Nair, et al. (2015). Their findings suggest that posture has an effect on the mood, behavior, and physiology of a person. That is, in comparison to a slouched posture, an upright posture enables their respondents to have a better outlook and self-esteem, reduces negative thoughts, and increases the rate of speech.
As stated earlier, good posture helps increase oxygen levels to the brain which also helps in reducing stress. Moreover, pain brought by the tension in the muscles responsible for posture due to a slouched posture increases stress, and thus, when this pain is relieved by proper posture and the exercises mentioned earlier, it is to be expected that stress will be relieved.
Good posture for anxiety relief
Good posture relieves anxiety in the same way as stress was relieved, in that better oxygen and blood flow to the brain enables this effect. In fact, posture manipulations are used in embodiment interventions that are used to bring an overall improvement in mental health, as seen in several studies about this topic.
In a study by Peper, et al. (2019), results showed that an upright body position complemented with thinking healthy thoughts and taking a deep breath helped in reducing anxiety levels. Similarly, reduced state anxiety in student populations was observed by Weineck, et al. (2020), even at normal, good postures, as compared to “power” postures (i.e., good postures are enough to bring improvements in your mental health and “power” posture may only give additional confidence).
Good posture for depression
Good posture helps in building and improving your self image, which is an important aspect of improving depression symptoms. An increased energy and mood are also to be expected when you observe better postures. You are also expected to think smarter and more positively with better postures, which are also linked to you feeling better emotionally. Getting tasks done due to more efficient brain functioning is also to be expected, making you prouder of your accomplishment, and, in turn, helping symptoms of depression be relieved. Moreover, in connection to a better stress response mentioned earlier, good posture also helps relieve depression since stress also contributes to this pathological mental state.
Good posture and a better social life
Since maintaining proper posture gives you better mental health, the positive effects can trickle into your social life, allowing you to have a better outlook in life and making you happier in general. Additionally, good posture not only makes you feel good about yourself, it also helps others feel good about you, too! In comparison to a slouched posture where you appear sloppy and less welcoming, an upright posture makes you look reassuring and warm as more areas of your body can be seen by people, especially your face. Similarly, you will also look better overall with a good posture, leading to you receiving compliments from others, which in turn makes you feel better about yourself.
Good posture also helps make you look smarter and more confident, which are important in making good impressions not only socially but also for work. When you have good posture, you will have a better brain functioning which is important in being more efficient for work, and people are also more likely to believe in your suggestions and capabilities when they see you looking confident with your good posture.
With our busy lifestyle where we spend most of our time in front of our computers, we may tend to not think of our postures and consider them as the least priority. We may even think of good posture as a hassle while slouching is a more comfortable position. However, while it is easier to slouch down to mind your posture, always be reminded of all the things that were discussed here. Proper posture, as simple as it is, is beneficial to your health in all its aspects — physical, mental, and social well-being.
However, do note that for a more sustainable effect, good posture must always be combined with therapies suitable for anxiety and depression. While good posture is proven to bring good effects mentally, it is still a must for patients with anxiety and depression or other mental health disorders to seek professional help.
This blog post is sponsored by BetterHelp, but all opinions are my own. I may receive compensation from BetterHelp or other sources if you purchase products or services through the links provided on this page.
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