When walking around in a public place, let’s say a grocery store, it is very easy to recognize someone that looks confident: makes eye contact, smiles at the people around them as having a good attitude. But have you ever noticed that same person has great posture? They are standing up straight, shoulders relaxed, and chest lifted. Now think about the opposite scenario. Someone who clearly doesn’t want to be there, they are leaning over their cart, shuffling slowly, avoiding everyone, is clearly dejected. I think you know where I am going with this, posture will be poor. Hunched back, shoulders lifted to the ears and chest caved in, this person is clearly trying to make themselves smaller. What is the significance of all of this? That posture is not just physical, but also has a strong behavioral component too.
I first came across the theory that posture is affected by attitude when I listened to the TED talk by Amy Cuddy (the second most watched TED in history) who has spent her career looking at the connection between the two. I then read her book Presence because I was so fascinated by the information. One of the studies that she looks at examines this idea. The subjects in the study were split into two groups. Both groups were told to write down either their best OR their worst qualities. One group was told to sit confidently (sitting with their back straight and chest lifted) or doubtful (slouched forward with back curved). The conclusion of this study was that the direction of thoughts (positive/negative) on self-related attitudes was significantly greater when participants wrote their thoughts in the confident than in the doubtful posture. In other words, when sitting confidently the subject was more likely to write about their best qualities while subjecting sitting in the doubtful posture were more likely to write about their worst qualities. Therefore, our posture does seem to have an impact on the direction our thoughts take.
As a chiropractor I am analyzing posture daily and it is safe to say that poor posture is becoming an epidemic. The most concerning thing is that as technology use increases the effects of poor posture seem to be hitting kids at an earlier age than in the past. We often describe what we see in children (or adults) who are hunched over their phones or tablets as “tech neck”. Poor posture that continues over time will literally change the shape of the spine, making it even harder to have better posture when you try because the muscles are fatigued. As we have talked about the link between poor posture and attitude maybe it’s not a coincidence that anxiety and depression are on the rise in children.
The good news is there is hope when it comes to improving posture! Poor posture is not something that happens overnight. It takes quite a while to change the shape of the spine and it can absolutely be fixed by correcting posture, stretching certain muscles and strengthening others. Chiropractors are also a great resource; we make gentle adjustments to the spine and give advice on how to improve posture. There are also ways to prevent poor posture from developing in the first place. As an adult you can make sure you have an ergonomic workspace and you can do your best to prevent repetitive motions at work and at home. When it comes to kids, encourage them to be active and playing. When using screens, instead of having their device sitting in their lap have them sit with the screen in front of them or propped up to avoid craning their necks. Make better posture in your household a priority and watch to see if confidence and good attitudes grow.