31 Aug Postural Influences on Health, Mood and Confidence
One of the most common contributors to my patient’s spinal issues is poor posture. We’ve heard it since we were children – “stand up straight, don’t slouch!” While it is true that standing up straight is beneficial structurally for our body, it also can have a powerful effect on our mind, mood and confidence too.
Firstly, let’s explore the structural impact on the body with poor posture.
A common postural pattern is the forward head carriage, shoulders rounded and the “sway” in the lower back. This posture can tend to cause muscle fatigue in the neck, between the shoulder blades and the lower back. It may cause tension headache, shoulder tightness, difficulty breathing or even early onset of osteoarthritis. Forward head posture puts a lot of extra weight on your neck and upper back. For approximately every 3cm your neck moves forward your head doubles in weight! For example, when you’re looking down at your phone, you could be adding an extra 5-10kg of pressure to your neck and shoulders!
Did you know that poor posture could actually trigger your “Fight/Flight” response in your body? The head moves forward ready to run, and the shoulders round forward ready to fight. This is a reflexogenic aspect of the fight or flight response, however it is becoming increasingly common in modern life. When we’re stuck in this fight/flight state or “survival” mode for too long, this is known as Sympathetic Dominance, which can have a number of flow on effects. Stay tuned for a future blog post discussing Sympathetic Dominance in more detail. Or to discover more now, check out Dr Wayne Todd’s work here.
An excellent relaxing stretch is to lay on a foam roller (I sell the half foam roller at the clinic, ideal for this exercise). If you don’t have one of these, simply try lay on two rolled up towels. If you would like detailed instructions on how to do this exercise as well as the benefits, reach out and send me an email and I’ll send it through to you.
So how does posture affect our mind, mood and even our confidence? Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. If you haven’t seen the well known TED talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy, check it out here! Amy argues that “power posing” – standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident – can boost feelings of confidence, and might have an impact on our chances for success!
Standing straight and tall, appearing big – expanding your arms and chest expresses the image of power!
This is very obvious in the animal kingdom, just look at gorillas. On the other hand, let’s look at when we’re feeling low, flat, sad or depressed. We tend to hunch, cross our legs, essentially making ourselves smaller.
This principle can go both ways. When you’re feeling flat, try the power pose – essentially trying to “fake it till you make it”. Our body and posture can have a positive impact on our minds.
At about the 10 minute mark of the TED talk mentioned above, Amy shows you some high power poses versus low power poses, have a look here. I personally love the “Wonder Woman” pose!
So with this knowledge of the importance on posture, hopefully you’ll feel a little more motivated to “stand up straight” and avoid slouching! Try the poses and exercises and see how you feel.