Our posture can give a lot away about us, perhaps even more than our words.
How many times did you hear “stop slouching” or “sit up straight” as a child?
Probably hundreds of times. We are the text-neck generation—and COVID-19 hasn’t helped the situation, unfortunately.
But our bad posture might have less to do with not “sitting up straight” and a lot more to do with our stress levels, our stored traumas, or our lack of self-esteem.
When we see someone with good posture, the qualities that probably come to mind are someone who is confident, open-minded, and positive. On the contrary, someone with poor posture might send off signals that they’re depressed, anxious, and unapproachable.
When we’re feeling stressed, we usually feel the tension in our necks and shoulders. Our emotions get stored in our physical bodies. Similarly, when we feel shame, sadness, or a lack of zest for life, our upper bodies naturally crumple. Our bodies reflect our inner state of mind.
“We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body.” ~ Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.
So, it doesn’t matter if you’re the most flexible yogi in the world: if you’re feeling in the dumps, your mood could be leading you to slouch, which tends to lead to other issues.
Why Good Posture Is So Important
Good posture has been linked to fewer bodily aches. When we stand or sit up tall, we are putting less pressure on our spine, as well as our tendons and muscles. Many people who suffer from back or neck pain find that improving their posture eases their symptoms.
When our body is in a crumpled state, we are also putting a lot of strain on our inner organs (lungs, stomach, and intestines). Over time, we may find our digestion slowing down or our breathing becoming more shallow and constricted.
Good posture is also linked to a good mood. Our spinal cord links our brain to the rest of the body. It’s a two-way communication system. The next time you’re feeling a bit low, try and sit up taller and take some deep breaths. You will notice a gentle boost in your mood. Your energy levels should increase too.
How to Improve Your Posture—And Your Mental Well-being
So, now that we know bad posture can have an effect on our mental state, and that our mental state can lead to bad posture, how can we go about improving both sides of the problem? (Apart from remembering to “sit up straight” every 20 minutes).
1. Chiropractic Care
Chiropractors align our spines and check for any postural imbalances. This can help us to improve our posture. Adjustments open the nervous system’s pathways, allowing the information to flow more freely (so we can function better, yippee).
But that’s not all. Chiropractic adjustments often release years and years of tension we hold in our muscles. Tearful releases after adjustments are not unheard of (yes, I am totally guilty here). This should help you to release stress and anything else literally weighing us down.
2. Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and Pilates both help us to increase strength in the back, as well as in the abdominal muscles. So practicing these on a regular basis will help our bodies to maintain a proper upright posture.
Both forms of exercise are also great for releasing stress and increasing one’s awareness. Yoga helps us to check in with the present moment: Where am I holding tension in my body? What emotions are arising when I’m sitting in stillness?
Feel it, and release it. You may feel rejuvenated after a yoga session (though feeling tired is also normal and perfectly fine too). And most importantly, you might feel better about yourself after practicing.
Think of other activities you enjoy doing that lift your mood.
It could be something as simple as going for a walk or going for a coffee with a friend. A boost in our mood will hopefully make us stand (and sit) taller.
Good mood, good posture. Good posture, good mood.