Bad posture is something that most people don't think about — until they experience negative health consequences. But numerous studies have shown that it can lead to long-term back pain, fatigue, and even migraine headaches. In this guest post, James Hollister goes over a simple action plan to improve bad posture, with specific habits you can easily add to your day.
At some level, I think we all know that we could do better when it comes to our posture.
Even if we can’t explain any of the health benefits or any “real" reasons to get better at it, we still go through periods when we try to work the problem.
Just like any other long term, ingrained habit it can be extremely tough to make any headway. We try for a little while and then give up because we feel like it’s not working or we just forget.
This article should give you some tips on how to make it stick this time.
Fixing your posture is all about awareness.
There is even one of those big Latin medical sounding terms to describe that awareness – proprioception – basically the understanding of our own body and the position of each of its parts relative to each other and to our environment. The problem is that our lifestyles have stifled our awareness. The things around us have numbed our ability to even perceive where certain parts of our body are at any given time.
When we’re thinking about fixing our posture we’re working against decades of behavior, it’s going to take some time to make progress. These are behaviors that go as far back as when you first started walking, crawling even. Lessons you learned from your parents, lessons they learned from their parents.
Don’t give up on yourself though. Celebrate each time that you realize that you’re standing or sitting incorrectly, catch yourself and fix it.
Triggers or Prompts
It’s been seen again and again that one of the best ways to build a new habit is to tie to an existing habitual behavior.
Until you are able to turn the tides and make your new posture more normal than your previous one use this tactic:
Try to find little times during the day that you can tie your new awareness into. Tie your triggers into the things that you do most often, each and every day.
Standing at the fridge to get a drink? Double check your feet and make sure they are correctly positioned. Take a couple deep breaths.
Sitting down for the first time at your desk? Check to see if you’re leaning too far forward with your head and neck.
Peeing? (if you’re a guy) Make sure your pelvis is in a neutral position and not tucked forward. Make sure that your weight is back onto your heals instead of falling forward and leaning on your toes. You should be able to wiggle your toes.
At a red light while driving? -Pull your shoulders back and square them up instead of keeping them rounded. Your ears should be directly in line with the center of your shoulders.
Standing in line at the rental car counter? Practice your squatting position while you’re staring at your phone scrolling through Facebook (don’t worry about the people who look at you funny).
What other triggers can you come up with?
It may take weeks, months or even years of doing this to get to a better default but after a while, you won’t even be able to remember how you used to stand and sit.
Keep at it.
In addition to working on your little posture habits through triggers – one great way to break up a bad habit is to change your environment.
They say that breaking up some of the routines that we’ve fallen into can have a big impact on the ways our brains function.
This is no different. Mixing things up and altering even the most innocuous of tasks could be the turning point you need to rewire those behaviors.
If you have really bad posture while driving – try taking a different route to work, maybe even a slightly different one each day of the week.
If you sit poorly while working at your desk, try a different chair at least a portion of the time – one that is hard (like a dining room chair) will force you to sit correctly more often.
Or better yet, find ways to work while standing up. No need to go out and blow your budget on a fancy stand up desk right now. Move your laptop around and find a good place where it is at a proper height. Even just an hour or two a day will help a lot.
The Buddy System
Having good posture is sadly not normal anymore. We live in a society where almost everyone is broken and almost everyone has bodies that are not functioning optimally.
Working on fixing it will make you stand out. Literally – if you switch the desk in your cubical to a standing position, people start to look at you funny for a while. “Are you going to work like that?" they may ask.
That’s why it can help to have a buddy (or buddies) on the journey with you. Have a co-worker or friend read this article too. Discuss the problems you each have and give each other a nudge to make it stick. Share it on Facebook or Tweet it right now to start looking for new recruits.
Make Sure You Know What Posture is Correct
Before I leave you, I want to go over one big thing.
Even if you have a desire to work on your posture and the way your body is aligned. Even if you know the tricks to develop a new habit and you’re fully invested in making it happen – that’s not enough.
Many people hurt themselves even worse when they work on their posture. That is because they get some bad advice, end up over correcting in certain positions and end up straining something.
Please take some time to learn more about how your body works and what good posture means. Hit up Google and find a source you trust. Find out a little about basic anatomy and human biomechanics. You don’t need a Ph.D., but I feel we should all know enough about our body to perform basic care and maintenance.
Other options to improve bad posture on a daily basis
One of the biggest health concerns in the United States is the increasingly sedentary lifestyle many people lead. There is increased sitting at work and at home as peoples lives can revolve around a computer.
Many people even describe the negative long term health impact of this poor posture and sitting as being similar to that of smoking in the 1960s. The poor posture of excessive sitting is killing our health and making us sicker.
One simple option is to stand more often, (hopefully concentrating on using the good posture techniques from this article) and one of the best ways to get yourself to stand more frequently is to have the option of standing while you work or play on your computer.
This is where the new adjustable height desks come into play. These desks can be used while sitting, then can transform so they can also be used while standing. Changing this up like this and never “just” sitting or standing is the best way to keep yourself aligned and healthy.
If you have any existing medical conditions or if you feel like anything at all isn’t quite right please see a licensed medical practitioner for advice specific to your own case. Some back and posture problems may just need a bit of work to fix. Other problems may need a professional.
But you got this. Improved health and improved posture are yours for the taking.
Leave a comment with any questions or if you got anything useful from this post please share your thoughts. I’ll respond to everyone.
If you’re looking for a little bit of prodding to keep you true to your new habit – join my free email mini-course True Alignment. Over the next 14 days, you’ll get small tips and tricks as well as the reminders you need to keep on top of it.
– James Hollister James writes about posture, alignment, and biomechanics from a hacker’s perspective. Check out more of his posts and sign up for his free 14 day email mini course here http://www.JamesHollister.com/develop-good-habits that guides you through the fixing your posture and helps you develop better alignment habits for good.