The Power of Posture

Here’s Where I Stand

WHEN SOMEONE STANDS, you can get a good idea of how they feel from their body language. 'It's common for depressed patients to present a "despondent" posture — they have stooped shoulders and their head down,' says Dr Cosmo Hallstrom, a spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

In 2017, the Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry reported that when depressed patients changed their posture, their moods got better.

When you alter your posture and make an effort to look up and keep your shoulders back, it associates with an improvement in your mood. It won't cure depression but contributes to relieving it by improving how you feel about yourself and how you present yourself to the world.

Researchers had 61 depressed people give a speech while sitting normally or with their shoulders back (they used tape to secure the back ). The way they talked, looked, spoke and responded were monitored.

Those with "corrected" posture seemed less tired and more enthusiastic. They used more words, which showed that they felt more awake and used fewer singular personal pronouns like "I," which indicated that they were less self-focused and less worried.

Why posture can have this effect could be as simple as making people feel better about themselves, which causes the brain to release 'feel good' chemicals.

It's a sign of depression to want to hide, think about yourself, and stay at home so you don't have to deal with other people. Hunching over or holding yourself in a way that isn't natural can cause aches and pains, making the depression worse and life a circle of bad things."

Poor posture can soon become a habit that can quickly spiral out of control, causing you to lose motivation and confidence. People must understand that these negative changes could impact individual health and mental wellbeing.

Correcting your posture is not so simple because you may have developed a lifestyle habit. When you change your posture, it will feel awkward, almost alien at first, because your body has become so used to sitting and standing in a particular way.

But with practice, good posture will become second nature – the first step to helping your mood and mobility in the long term and correcting muscle imbalances which can cause muscular strain, spinal problems, joint wear and tear, rounded shoulders, and a potbelly.

Your posture won't protect against aches and pains – mobility will. The athlete, Usain Bolt, has scoliosis – and an excessively curved spine, yet he is the fastest man on earth.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter how you hold yourself so long as you don't stay in one place for too long. The body needs to move, so if we don't take time to get up and move around during the day, it can lead to stiffness, back and neck pain, and hurt your muscles and posture. You should get up and move around for a minute or two every hour when you are required to sit for prolonged periods. Go for a walk, do some light exercise, or just march on the spot.

When you sit in one place for too long, nerve endings called nociceptors, which respond to pressure and other stimuli like heat, pick up on the pressure and send messages to the spinal column and brain that make you feel uncomfortable. This message explains why we sometimes wriggle in our chairs: it's our body telling us to move before we feel pain from staying in the same position for too long.

As you get older, there are benefits from sitting up straighter — your muscles are losing strength, so sitting up straight can help to work your spinal muscles. Keeping active maintains your muscle strength — most important for mobility and reducing aches and pains.

Finally, you don't need things like Botox or hair dye; improving your posture is the fastest and cheapest method to make you look younger. Posture can improve at any age, and it will also cut your risk of developing back pain, which affects around 70 per cent of British adults at some point in their lives.

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Even for a SUPER-A, staying motivated to exercise can be challenging physically and psychologically. So please sign-up to my newsletter for my latest blogs, workshops and retreats.

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