In this installment of Wit and Wisdom for Well-Being, we bring you: posture!
“Stand up straight!” That phase might bring flashbacks for some of you. Turns out, the advice your parents gave you (even if unsolicited) was pretty helpful.
In chatting with one of my colleagues recently, we discussed some of the best practices we try to incorporate into our daily routine. We talked about meditation, breathing exercises, neck/shoulder rolls… and proper posture. Many of us already know the importance of movement. Even moving between a sitting and standing position throughout the day is good for your well-being. But what about your posture while sitting or standing? What impact does that have on your well-being?
FIRST, YOUR BODY
First, let’s start with the physical aspects of posture. If you are hunched over, you are putting your body into a protective posture. Not only does a hunched position make you look weak, but this position also tells your body that those valuable internal organs in your torso need to be protected, basically communicating to your body that you are in a weakened position. The hunched stance “can also reduce lung capacity by as much as 30%, reducing the amount of oxygen” that is going to important parts of your body, like your brain.
Continuous poor posture, as with any repetitive movement or position, can also place stress on the body and even cause permanent damage. On the positive side, proper posture can prevent and even help relieve neck and back pain. I also learned through a brief experience with sciatic nerve pain that proper posture was one of the few things that alleviated the pain.
THEN, YOUR MIND
I imagine that you are sitting up a bit straighter now and have likely taken a deep breath. With your improved posture, be sure to adjust your monitor so that the center of your screen is approximately 15 degrees below your horizontal gaze. Now that you’re better situated, I can tell you that beyond physical well-being, proper posture impacts your cognitive functioning. During the pandemic when all presentations were virtual, I had to consistently remind myself to stand during my presentations. Standing up straight while I was presenting, even in slippers and yoga pants, helped me communicate better. Intuitively, I knew this stance and posture would help, but didn’t exactly know why.
Think about impactful presenters or memorable TED talks. The person is never sitting down. They are standing up straight and generally seem to have an air of confidence about them. It made me think, does confidence inform posture, or does posture inform confidence? Research reveals, it’s both.
Our body posture not only affects how other perceive us, but also how we think about ourselves. When you sit upright, you are signaling to your brain that you are in a stance of power, which leads to increased testosterone levels and a boost in productivity. Proper posture can also improve our self-esteem and put us in a better mood. It’s not always part of our conscious experience, but certainly impacts our own confidence in our thoughts, our ideas, and ourselves.
Beyond our own self-confidence, it is important to remember the impact of our posture and stature on those around us. If we have confidence in our words, we can be more impactful with our message by ensuring that our body language reflects our confidence. Body language can be challenging to assess in a virtual environment, but as we continue to conduct more business in person, I encourage you to take note of your own body language and observe the body language of those around you. Like the TED talk speakers, you may first notice someone with a “presence” in the room. Note their posture. It’s likely an upright stance that makes them appear confident, strong, and tall, and as we’ve just learned, their posture likely helps them feel more confident in themselves. Individuals that tend to have lower self-esteem may be likely to slouch with their shoulders rolled inwards, almost in a protective and unwelcoming stance.
As you observe others, be sure to take time to reflect on your own stance. Be mindful of your posture and how you feel around others, your overall mood and comfort level. Consider how your stance is impacting your own physical and cognitive well-being and be aware of what you are communicating to others with your body language. And remember, like your parents said: stand up straight!
SOME BEST PRACTICES TO TAKE WITH YOU:
- Listen to your body. Each person’s body speaks to it in different ways. Trust what your body is telling you and work to understand how different activities, movements, and postures impact your physical well-being. As my body has told me, slouching hurts, so don’t do it.
- Observe others. In addition to your own body language, observe the body language and posture of others, and if you see someone slouching, perhaps offer some words of encourage and see how their body responds. Remember that confidence and posture go both ways.
- Get an ergonomic work setup. Get a good, ergonomically supportive chair and ensure that your work point is set up correctly for you and your body. Your employer may even be able to offer you a professional ergonomic evaluation—if so, get one scheduled today.
As always, we’re here to help. If you have any questions, thoughts, ideas, or would like to learn more about how Stok and our subject matter experts can support your organization, please reach out.