Updated: Aug 19, 2022
Your choice has an impact on your well-being
At the start of 2021, we often heard the wish that ‘this year will be better than last’. As 2022 unfolded, many of us found ourselves in a very similar position this year too. If last year didn’t fulfil the wishes for a healthy and happy year, are we convinced that 2022 will be better? In the persistent greyness of winter, many people are inclined to adopt an equally dreary, negative posture, hiding away as much as possible and waiting for better days. Do you, dear reader, drag your feet and slump into your chair with no motivation, no get-up and go?
Allowing yourself to indulge in this posture increases the sense of dissatisfaction and misery. You may not be able to make the sun come out literally but you can change your posture and find a brighter perspective on life.
What is posture?
The word “posture” refers to the physical alignment of the body: “the characteristic way in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting” It also refers to the attitude or position that a person adopts in particular situations, for example, flattering, or bullish. In other words, “posture” is how we stand – in the physical and emotional sense.
Traditionally, an ideal physical posture is considered to be upright, a ‘regal’ stance or a noble, elegant pose where the bearer always has a straight back, never sinking into one hip, slouching, or lounging back in a chair. And in essence, that is what a healthy posture is. When we sit or stand up as tall as possible, without straining or tensing up, we allow oxygen and blood to flow more easily around our bodies. There is less stress on our muscles and ligaments, and correspondingly, we increase overall muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. Physical ailments such as headaches, back and neck pain, knee, hip or other joint pains are also reduced through good posture.
Contrary to expectations perhaps, standing straight does not usually make us tired. Of course, practice makes the exercise easier but even attempting an upright stance for one minute (or less!) can have an immediate impact on our sense of well-being.
Your posture is a reflection of how you feel
If you feel great, you are more inclined to be walking tall, literally, and maybe even with your head in the clouds. Your body is happily alert, sitting or standing upright, and ready to move ahead or step out. It is almost impossible to feel grumpy or sad when we lift our chins, open our eyes, and look straight ahead.
But perhaps we don’t always feel on top of the world. Think for a moment about your approach to the new year and how you are standing, sitting, walking, and moving around. Anxiety tends to reflect in our body stance; our muscles are taut and tense. When depressed, we sink into ourselves; shrinking away from everyone and everything. With feelings of uncertainty, we are often unfocused and our movements are jerky or floppy. With anger, we may thrash out or clench our muscles. Fear, frustration, sadness, and any other negative emotion that you can think of all have an equally negative effect on our well-being. We feel tired, low, or unhappy – and it shows in our posture.
Maintaining a posture – knowingly or not – reinforces your attitude. With a negative posture you may be angry or miserable all day long, if you let it. Or if you choose to be positive, you might have the best day of your life! Did you know that you can change your posture at any time, and immediately change your emotional state?
How do we change our posture?
There are two basic methods to changing a posture: muscular alignment, and neural programming.
The first involves practising a stance that focuses on physical positioning.
With your feet approximately 20 centimetres (8 inches) away from a wall, lean on to the wall with your back so that your torso and the back of your head are flat on the wall.
Check that your:
feet are slightly apart
toes are pointing forward
arms are relaxed at the side
chin is parallel to the ground
Depending on your morphology (body shape), if possible, make sure that your:
shoulders are level, not one higher than the other
hips are level, not one higher than the other
stomach muscles are lifted up and inward, not hanging loose
When you feel that your back is flat and your neck is long, push yourself away from the wall and stand up, keeping your straight position.
The stomach muscles are possibly the most difficult to master as there is a tendency to lift (and tense) shoulders when attempting to pull in the stomach. However, stomach muscles support the spine and back muscles when it comes to a healthy posture, so it is worth practising.
You can sit on a stool to do this too. Put the stool close to the wall so that you can sit with your torso and the back of your head against the wall. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your toes pointing forward.
When you ‘find’ your posture – the position where you feel naturally relaxed yet awake - hold the position and maintain an easy breathing pattern for one or two minutes, or longer if you wish. Ideally you will feel refreshed and possibly, taller.
Neural programming - PEP
The second method for better posture is what I call PEP – Positive Emotion Posture – and is generated by neurons. Your brain provides the impulse for your posture.
The Oxford English Dictionary describes “pep” thus: “energy and high spirits; liveliness”.
For the PEP method, all you need to do is remember a happy moment, a “high”, an event or activity that enlivened or invigorated you, or any other recollection that makes you sit up with joy, happiness, or excitement. Once you decide upon a favourite memory, mentally assign the acronym “PEP” to it, so that when you say, “PEP” to yourself, you are reminded to adopt a positive, high-spirited pose. Whenever you notice you are feeling low or that your posture is sluggish, whisper - or shout, if you wish - “PEP” and boost your spirits (and posture) with your happy memory.
Of course, you can use a different trigger word if you wish, so long as it has the effect of helping you perk up and adopt a positive stance. All you need is the willingness to try.
What posture will you adopt now?
Our bodies are our greatest asset and yet too often we neglect them. Paying attention to our posture can change our outlook within seconds. When you sit or stand up physically straight, you might even notice that it is not so easy to be grumpy or sad.
How will you continue for the rest of 2022? Will you hang around hopelessly waiting for better days or will you cast aside anger, frustration, or misery, and adopt a positive posture and walk out with confidence?
If you’d like help with finding your natural positive and healthy posture, contact email@example.com to arrange an introductory consultation, or join the private group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/swiveloutofstress
 Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, 2003.