How to look like Superman.

Nah, not really.  It’s something more like ‘upright-relaxed‘ we’re going for.  Centred, with weight evenly distributed; the chin not protruding from the body too much and pelvis balanced so the bum isn’t pointing out excessively nor curved inwards and your spine straight but not forced upright too much should make you the natural S-Curve and not the unhappy C-curve.  Wiggle (yes wiggle) the pelvis forward and back for ten seconds and you might become aware of a more comfortable, natural position.  Shoulders are rolled back and down, and relaxed, with a smile on that mug of yours.  If you also put your feet at about shoulder width, balance your weight a bit more towards the ball of the foot on both sides and stop there for a moment you might feel how much stronger your body is than when it’s hunched up or than the rare occasion you puff your chest out in a frankly bizarre display of attempted social dominance.

In fact Superman-pose might just give you pretty serious back problems.

Why didn't I listen to Note?!

Why didn’t I listen to Note?!

In brief:

  1. Posture is one of the most important factors when it comes to your physical and mental well-being.
  2. Good posture can be the difference between completing a task and losing your motivation.
  3. Many people have poor posture and probably don’t even realise it; the increasingly internet-prone, sedentary lifestyle we lead in offices all day might be making you unhappy in more ways than are immediately obvious you instant-gratification junkies.
  4. A whole variety of daily and long-term ills maybe affected by poor posture.
  5. There are many ways to correct poor posture, from chiropractic to physiotherapy to insoles if you have arched feet like me.
  6. Posture affects your outlook and the confidence you have in your thoughts.

goodposture

 

I’ve always had pretty terrible posture, I have a number of conditions that contribute to that, ok! But there’s no point in making excuses when it comes to how you walk around in your day-to-day life, the only person you’re making excuses to is yourself (and maybe your mother.)

Mom2

This week I decided to look at one area of my life that gets far too little attention and posture was the first thing I thought about, so I did a lot of reading… and I must do some more.* This point was made for me by non-other than the great Steven Fry.  After I’d finished reading the slew of articles and papers I’d collected last night, I heard him mention on QI that there is in fact a new study showing the best position for sitting on a chair (and it is not upright) is leaning back at a gentle curve so your pelvis is slightly forward and your upper back is making contact with the back of the chair.  To bosses, that might look like you’re lying back and not working hard – but I’m fairly sure they’d prefer to have a few workers laying back and not have to foot the medical bill in a few years time.  This is important, because a bad back can cause serious problems, which range from aches and pains to depression and even long term effects, continuous to extreme pain and the inability for your body to use its lungs properly on a daily basis should be enough to make anyone think twice about slouching.

Actually as above, a normal chair can be quite effective if used ‘properly‘ but I’m so used to sitting on a couch and leaning onto a low table looking downwards that it’s hard to break the habit.   For now I’m adding a seating position into my regimen (yes, a seating regimen) and using my old desk with a few tweeks and reminders to make sure I’m not doing any permanent damage.  The monitor is being raised for one and the keyboard comfortably brought closer to the body, the chair is being lowered just a bit so the monitor is just above where it would normally be so I’m looking slightly up instead or pointing my head down.  On the couch I’m going to try and find a better angle using strategically placed cushions… but truthfully, it’s always going to be a bit of a pain.  So as with all habits, don’t beat yourself up if it’s not easy at first, I’m not going to.

Right now though, as I’m waiting to find that research, my primary focus is on standing.  I find the best way to improve my posture is just a little reminder everyday on my ‘morning routine’ and I stand up straight, let my shoulders and back feel relaxed and balanced and take a couple (literally) of deep breaths, this is usually enough to find that later on I’ll remember to change the way I’m sitting up to something that isn’t going to cause me serious issues when I’m older.  I’ve raised my laptop higher before and even taken to making a bespoke standing desk but as with a lot of habits that I find are healthy for you – it’s not always easy, we aren’t really geared up for it.  It’s all about learning, and changing one day at a time, until your the odd guy at the party readjusting the seat whilst a few other guys destined for back-pain laugh and a few others tell you about their new yoga instructor and his wonderful new parsley juice only weight loss regimen.

good-posture

There is evidence to show that posture affects confidence in your own thoughts… this is important.  Read that back, seems obvious, right?  It’s not as obvious as you might think.   A good posture makes you more confident about your own thoughts yes, but if those thoughts are negative then the confidence might just reassert the negative things you think about yourself and make you more likely to think those things are true.  Of course, the opposite is true, and if you think positively (hence the enforced smile 😉 ) then you’re more likely to believe your more positive thoughts, at least that’s my understanding.

In fact, a poor posture may indicate submission, both to those around you and to yourself on a subconscious level, it’s also likely to cause you to feel more stress and less in control of your situation.  There is a whole chain-effect that happens when you feel out of control of your situation that can lead you to blame others for it, and then feel disempowered, and then feel angry and sad, and it seems to keep going down that rabbit-hole, but it’s a story for another time and something I have personal experience with, exclusively from the ages of 21 and a half to 22 and one month.  Like I said though, that’s for another day.  For now, just think that it all begins with a simple adjustment in posture, and a reminder to keep that spine in check once a day might just make you feel a little bit more in control and a little bit less prone to feeling helpless and beginning down that path.)

There are some tricks to making yourself feel better with body language, and we’ll be looking at those in the coming months, for now though it’s important to think that fake it till you make it, is often a great policy, and one that has definitely worked for me.  The main issue I have with some of these personal development techniques is that I forget about them (life and business get in the way after all) and then find myself facing a situation and not knowing how to cope with the pressure, until something reminds me, then: I make myself stand up, breathe from my abdomen, smile, untuck my arms and remind myself that I’m a competent, good-hearted human being that wants the best for other people and puts a lot on the line to make that happen, and who works hard enough to know that I probably can handle the situation I’m about to face, and even if I can’t, then if it’s not going to cause any issues, I’ll jump on board anyway and enjoy the ride.  So many times that exact chain of events has happened and somewhere in there I’ve felt my confidence go up and my brain kick into gear, and the job I’ve done might not be perfect, but it’s certainly better than all the people who didn’t show up for it, and I’ve come out the other side having learned a lot.

Amy Cuddy does a great talk on this and I think it’s really important to always have that in the back of your mind, not only might you be curing yourself of potential diseases but you might just handle your day-to-day and goal achievements in a better fashion.

My recommendations:

  • Put your monitor higher up and buy a sloped stand if you’re using a laptop.
  • Try getting an adjustable height desk or a standing/treadmill desk (this is also a fantastic way to feel better throughout the day and to get back into exercising but make sure you aren’t causing yourself any issues if you have poor walking habits) and simply try to sit less during the day.
  • Do some light stretching and try a couple of exercises in the links (I’m loving Vidya’s snow angels method)
  • Lift weights – a strong core is really important, we’ll be covering some core exercises soon.
  • Take your Vitamin D, our doses probably far exceed the ones you’re used to hearing, but Vitamin D is important for pretty much everything.
  • Visit a physiotherapist if you’re having back or neck problems (I’d also recommend a chiropractor but my limited experience means I can’t do that right now, I do like the way that chiropractors talk in holistic terms though – without it sounding too much like woo, in fact it makes a lot of sense to me.)
  • Take a break every hour and walk outside if possible, make sure you’re taking calm deep breaths from your abdomen, and hopefully you’ll stop seeing that chest raise.
  • Remember that the body is a connected system, one thing affects another, and physical experience can change the entire hallucination we refer to as conscious experience in a big way.
  • Watch Portlandia, in a great chair with good back-support, or from a treadmill, it will make you laugh.

*As with all Stickman posts, this is not a definitive article expressing my opinion on the subject, but merely an inquiry (in this case, an initial one) into somethings I think could use improvement, so don’t consider it medical advice… just something I’m trying out.

 

These are just some suggestions I’ve put together after reading and trying a few things out this week, we’re on a tight schedule so we’d love some input if you have any, if there is anything you’d like to add or anything that works for you it’s always welcome here! Thanks guys!  

Author: Note

Joshua Note is the host of The Note Show (www.thenoteshow.com) He's a children's author and his debut book is due for release in 2014. A talk radio maven, he also enjoys jazz and gadgets.

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