You know how you don’t feel too great when you’re slouching? It turns out that hunching over your phone is actually affecting your mental health, and sitting up straight may just make you happier.
By Dr. Liza
While poor posture won’t cause mental illness, it can depress your mood and leave you feeling stressed. Even if you’re already happy, improving your posture will likely leave you happier and healthier. A study in Health Psychology demonstrated that adopting an upright seated posture can reduce negative mood while increasing positive mood compared to a slumped posture.
Given our device centric lifestyles poor posture is becoming increasingly common. We spend hours a day hunched over computers, phones, sitting and generally bent in a more forward position. This type of forward flexed posture is considered ‘poor posture’ while standing up straight with our shoulders back, a long neck and everything in alignment would be considered ‘good posture’.
By correcting your posture your spine will function better, your muscles will work more effectively and you will feel better. When your body is aligned it will move more efficiently and free up energy for your brain. This means you’ll have less fatigue and be more energized. That’s bound to make you happier!
And with all of this new found energy, you’ll likely get a nice confidence boost. In fact it’s proven that within just 20 minutes of maintaining good posture your testosterone levels start to increase. Since testosterone is the hormone linked to confidence this means that not only will you look more confident with great posture but you’ll genuinely feel more confident. And if that’s not enough, studies have shown that just 30 minutes of great posture will boost endorphin levels and that’s a great thing because endorphins are the naturally produced feel good chemicals in your body.
Now that you know that improving your posture will increase your energy, how you feel about yourself and overall confidence, here are 5 exercises you can do to improve your posture and therefore increase happiness.
STANDING CAT COW STRETCH
Doing the cat cow stretch while standing helps to loosen up tightness in your back, hips, and glutes while also mobilizing your spine.
To do this:
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart with a slight bend in your knees.
- Extend your hands in front of you or place them on your thighs.
- Lengthen your neck, bring your chin toward your chest, and round your spine.
- Then look up, lift your chest, and move your spine in the opposite direction.
- Hold each position for 5 breaths at a time.
- Continue this movement for a few minutes.
You can use a side plank to maintain the neutral alignment of your spine and legs. This energizing pose works the muscles in your sides and glutes. Strengthening and aligning these muscles helps to support your back and improve posture.
To do this:
- From a high plank position, bring your left hand slightly into the centre.
- Shift your weight onto your left hand, stack your ankles, and lift your hips.
- Place your right hand on your hip or extend it up toward the ceiling.
- You can drop your left knee down to the floor for extra support if needed.
- Engage your abdominals, side body, and glutes as you maintain this pose.
- Align your body in a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels.
- Look straight ahead of you or up toward your hand.
- Hold this pose for up to 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
This exercise helps to relieve pain and stiffness from sitting in one place for too long. Isometric rows work your shoulder, arm, and back muscles, giving you the strength and support to maintain good posture.
To do this:
- Sit in a chair with a soft back.
- Bend your arms so your fingers are facing forward and your palms are facing each other.
- Exhale as you draw your elbows back into the chair behind you and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Breathe deeply as you hold this position for 10 seconds.
- On an inhale, slowly release to the starting position.
- Repeat this movement for 1 minute.
- Do this exercise several times throughout the day.
HAPPY BABY POSE
Not only will this pose help improve your posture by opening up your hips, it helps to alleviate stress and anxiety by activating positive nervous energy. This is why you can often see babies smiling in this pose.
To do this:
- Lie on your back. Exhale, bend your knees and bring them up towards the stomach.
- Inhale, grab the outer edge of the feet firmly with your hands. Alternatively, you can loop a strap around the feet or place your hands on the calves.
- Spread your knees hip-width apart and raise the knees up to your armpits. If uncomfortable, reduce the distance between the knees.
- Set each ankle directly over the knees and shins perpendicular to the floor.
- Hold this pose for 60 seconds.
REVOLVED HALF MOON
This chest and shoulder opener not only helps you breathe, but it challenges your balance. The more balanced you are, the better your posture will be and combined with better breathing you’re bound to be happier.
- Begin in a standing forward bend.
- Lift left leg to come to a lunge position on the right leg, with both hands on the ground.
- Keep left fingertips on the ground and lift right arm toward the ceiling.
- Look up at top hand. Bend both knees to reach right hand to left ankle or shin.
- Once you have hold of the foot, lift left knee and foot straight up. Look up, rotating chest open toward the ceiling.
- Breathe here for at least 3 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.
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