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How Good Posture Benefits Overall Happiness

Marcus 33
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Did you ever think about your body posture as a determining factor for your mental state?

To start off and hopefully pique your interest, I would like you to do this short mental exercise:

Picture in your mind an anxious or sad person. What kind of posture does that person have? Is it an upright posture with relaxed shoulders and open chest, or is it a hunched-over sort of closed posture?

What do you think that means? Read below and I am confident that you will find out how good posture benefits overall happiness.

What Is Happiness?

 I believe that everyone has their own version of what happiness is, and while details might vary there will be many things in common as well.

With that being said, I think we can all agree that happiness will at least include:

  • having positive thoughts about yourself,
  • not being overly anxious
  • being confident in yourself and your ability
  • doing something well (mentally and physically)

Body And Mind: The Two-Way Street

 At first glance, most people will think about a negative body posture as a reaction to negative emotions.

But it is just as true to say that you have negative emotions because of a negative posture. Your thoughts and emotions affect your body, and your body affects your emotions and thoughts.

It is a circular thing, and trying to separate or distinguish one part doesn’t make much sense. Even if it were, it is not like your negative mood is more true or real because it didn’t “originate in your mind”.

If you are skeptical you can try out one of the oldest examples in the book. Smile and laugh for a full 30 seconds and see for yourself if that didn’t change your mood and positivity of your thoughts.

One study done in 2014 investigated depressed individuals and how their sitting posture affected their tendency to recall negative things about themselves. The people who slouched recalled more negative words about themselves than positive, while there was no bias among people who had an upright-sitting

Posture And Breathing

It shouldn’t be a surprise that your breathing pattern affects your body. In general, a relaxed breathing pattern will be long and deep and stressed breathing will be short and shallow.

The latter is also a common effect of the fight-or-flight response.

Your lungs need plenty of space to expand and contract in order to take long and deep breaths. When you are hunching over you are literally compressing the space within which can interfere and compromise your breathing.

Just imagine trying to inflate a balloon when someone is sitting on it – not very easy right?

After all, there is a reason why both good posture and relaxed breathing is so important in things like meditation and yoga, it is really essential for a calm mind.

A thing to take note of is that many of your internal organs can potentially be negatively affected by your posture. Another big problem hunching-over / slouching can lead to is indigestion or worse. Food needs to be able to flow freely through your gut.

Indigestion, constipation, hernia, and acid reflux are more commonly seen among people with bad posture.

Posture And Confidence

We are all constantly both consciously and subconsciously assessing or reassessing ourselves based on how other people respond to us. Many times it is with subtle cues, body language or other kinds of non-verbal communication.

Basically, we are looking for feedback to identify who we are relative to our environment.

How we present ourselves and carry our bodies can have a powerful effect on how other people perceive you, and it is far from only being about physical attractiveness.

Do you, for example, try to “hide” / make yourself smaller, or do you stand out with an open posture not afraid of putting your guard down?

 If people respond well to you and pay attention to what you say when you speak, it is going to make you feel more confident in that situation.

There is also some interesting research suggesting that adopting certain postures would have an almost immediate effect on hormone levels normally associated with feeling more confident. Those conclusions were later heavily criticized and it is now a very controversial topic. Perhaps future research will be able to establish a link.

My Personal Experience

The first 2-3 years of studying at University I was often scared of asking questions in class. Even though it is many years ago now I still remember it clearly.

The problem was really that it took me a long time to get comfortable in new social situations. I am introverted and you could say that it takes me some time to “warm up” to people, especially when I was a teenager and in my early twenties.

The faculty admiration had some disagreeable procedures, one of which were to place students randomly with every new course. I had a lot of different courses and there were a lot of students.

Basically every new semester I was placed in new classes mostly with students I had never seen before. This meant I rarely became comfortable and almost never spoke up in class.

One day I just got really tired of feeling like that, and I wanted to do something about it. I realized that I had to face the problem and push myself to speak in class, but I also wanted something that could make that easier.

You know, instead of confronting my fears head on I wanted some kind of easy trick…

That is when I first came across some information on the internet about posture and its potential influence.

Following the advice and suggestions of what I read, I tried to keep my spine upright with an open chest while sitting in class.

It was not a “magic pill” but it did make it easier for me. I should say that I was very skeptical at first and it took me a long while to acknowledged that it couldn’t just be a placebo effect.

Being conscious about my posture and its influence also started me along the journey of learning to overcome my uncomfortableness in new social situations.

Mental Performance

 My math teacher for the first few grades of primary school was a very experienced teacher. I believe he had something like 40 years of experience as a math teacher and he was a great example of what “being old school” means.

There were many things he didn’t tolerate in class, and he always told us to sit up straight when we were studying. He said it was better for our focus.

It makes good sense because sitting up straight and having proper body alignment promotes good blood circulation. With good blood circulation, oxygen and glucose flow freely to the brain.

What might surprise you is that your brain has the highest energy demand of all organs in your body, estimates range from about 20-25 %, and it needs a constant flow as it has no means of storing energy like other organs and muscles.

Some interesting studies have also been able to show that students performing tests scored higher when they were sitting up straight with relaxed shoulders compared to when slouching.

Surprisingly, there seemed to be an even bigger difference when the test subject as on the students feared.

You can read more about these findings here.

Furthermore, since good posture can positively influence your mood, confidence and perhaps make you more relaxed and less anxious, it would not be far-fetched to say that this could indirectly lead to better mental performance.

Flow States

Another interesting point about mental performance is that there seems to be a strong argument for a link between happiness and the mental state known as flow.

Simply put, the more flow the happier you become. If you think it sounds weird or interesting, you can read more about it here.

Flow is essentially this unique mental state of altered consciousness where we become “laser-focused” and completely immersed in the thing we are doing. Creativity and productivity go through the roof and our sense of time and space can disappear.

My point with this is that good posture could potentially make getting into flow state easier, but also that focusing and getting immersed in doing something that you are good at and then perform well makes you happy.

What Now?

Hopefully, I triggered a desire for being more aware of your own posture and perhaps work on improving it.

You don’t have to worry about getting a “perfect posture” at all. Firstly, I am not sure such a thing exist. Secondly, you don’t need one to enjoy a happier life.

It is not going to work like a magic pill and it won’t be an overnight change, but as your posture becomes better you will gradually but surely see improvements.

There are many different things you can do to improve your posture, but I can’t recommend any single thing. Regrettably, there is not one thing that can solve the whole problem.

What I can recommend instead is that you focus on these three things:

  1. Ergonomics:
    Most people will want to improve the ergonomics of the places they spend most of their time, e.g. their desk at the office. As a guideline, you should be able to sit with upright spine when typing while maintaining approximately 90 degrees angles at your knees, hips and elbows and your screen should be about eye-height.
  2. Posture Awareness:
    You need to become familiar with what good posture feels and looks like. Three common issues are shoulders rounding forward and inward, forward tilting head and a protruding belly due to tight hips. Some people found it very helpful to buy a product that both works to help correct posture and improve awareness.
  3. Stretch short and tight muscles and strengthen long and weak muscles:
    Poor posture is usually caused by muscular imbalances. E.g. rounded shoulders are often caused by tight chest muscles and weak muscles around the shoulder blades.

For the high-achievers, I would recommend getting a stronger core and to work your tight and sore muscles. Practicing yoga is a really good option for this and if you don’t know where to start you can check out the popular Youtube channel Yoga With Adriene

For an easier way to work those sore muscles, you might want to look into some of the popular handheld massagers. While they can work really well and be cheaper than going to a masseuse, they are still relatively expensive. If you are still interested, here is a list of the cheaper alternatives.

Author: Marcus

Marcus is the owner of the site Strengthery where he likes to write about weight training, weight loss, and health-related topics. After a shoulder injury and in general having a hard time with his posture, he became obsessed with learning everything about it. He now likes to share what he learned.

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  1. Philip Philip

    Hello,

    I am super-slouch! I never think to sit right or even consider postures and how that affects my state of mind.

    This was a very informative article and I learned a lot here about my own bodily postures and how that affects my overall happiness.

    This article really has introduced to a whole body of knowledge that I was not even aware exists.

    Love to see more articles like this in the future and I am looking forward to reading more.

    Thank you for this amazing information and I will be applying what I have gained here today. Much appreciated 🙂 .

  2. DorcasW DorcasW

    Hi Marcus; your post is fascinating. I always wonder, at some types of posture that I see common among some of my acquaintances. At times I even confront with some of them about the position they maintained.

     I always believe that everything is not normal about them. However, my acquaintance’s tend to laugh and assured me that they are OK. Now that I read your post I understand that their stressful lifestyle could be weighing down heavy on their minds causing their posture to comply with their thoughts. I learn something from your post today.

    DorcasW

  3. Alblue Alblue

    I’ve heard and realize that mental state (and also physical state) can contribute to overall happiness, but this is the first time I realize the connection between body posture an happiness. Thank for being an eye opener to me. My desk at office doesn’t seem to be ergonomically build, I often feel backpain and afraid this will affect my body posture and health. Do you maybe have a solution for this situation? If this is my home, I can just buy a new ergonomic chair. But since this is an office, It will be hard to ask them to replace the chair and desk 🙁

  4. Brent Brent

    This is a well thought about article on how good posture benefits overall happiness. Posture plays an important role in the life of an individual. Infact happiness is a choice and is free and available for everyone who desires it. If happiness is felt within then it must reflect on the facial and posture accompanying it. This article is really on point and helpful. Have learnt something valuable today that will help me in life. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

    Hi, Marcus, I also had similar experiences as you. I remember the good old, “Shoulders back, heads up,” approach many of my teachers took when I was in grade and middle school. Like you, I’m a workout warrior who once struggled and at times, still struggles, with poor posture.

    I always see a change in my mood and definitely confidence when I find myself practicing proper postural mechanics. On the contrary, when such postural mechanics are off, the opposite occurs.

  6. Ibrahim Abdulrahman Ibrahim Abdulrahman

    For the first time I have read an article on how good posture benefits overall happiness. A good mental state leads to good overall performance of an individual. This article has provided an overall overview on this topic including practical senerios. Body posture leads to happiness. This article is great is great and by providing us with your personal experience while studying at the University it gives one a good picture of what you are talking about. Good job

    • Thanks Ibrahim! It is a topic that has been in my mind for a long time, and it was great to explore it in-depth when writing this post.

  7. Rgpratap Rgpratap

    Hey Marcus,

    Fantastic! I learned a lot by reading the article written on the effect of posture on happiness. Father used to teach Gesture-Posture during my childhood. But then I did not know that it had so much influence on mental peace. It’s great to hear stories about your real experience. Thank you sincerely for a nice and informative review.

    With Regards,
    Rgpratap.

    • Happy you liked it Rgpratap. Gestures and body language is another very interesting topic 😀

  8. Vapz Vapz

    Hi, great article here. I really enjoyed reading and have learnt a thing or two. I’ve never been one to slouch much and I think I can say that people are more receptive of me and I am basically a confident person. Also between two of my kids, the one who slouches more often is not as confident as the one who is not always upright and generally less visibly happy. I didn’t really attribute these things to good posture but reading through this article,sent me through a thought-train.

    I would use the sometime slouching kid to experiment on this. Thanks for sharing.

    • That would definitely be worth looking into and thanks for sharing. Perhaps you heard about Amy Cuddy and her power poses, in any case you should check her out. She was heavily criticised for some of her arguments, but it seems like she got a major comeback recently.

  9. Tekyia Tekyia

    This was a pretty interesting read. I don’t think it’s often we pay attention to our posture. I know I don’t. I just sit or stand in a way that feels comfortable to me. 

    While reading, I began thinking bout how I sit/stand when I’m feeling down vs feeling happy and confident. I must say, this is spot on. However, Im not too sure if my breathing pattern is different when I’m stressed. I’ll have to pay more attention.

    I’ll definitely be paying more attention to my posture to make sure I’m influencing my mood in a positive way.

    • Cool and thanks for pointing out breathing patterns. It is probably too far-fetched to say that shallow breathing can make you stressed, but it is something normally associated with the so-called “fight-or-flight response”.

  10. Olanike Olanike

    Thanks for fishing out an amazing article about how good posture can benefits overall happiness.happiness is free and its a medicine to good posture.

    I also learnt some important this that can benefit my entire life in this article.I can say its an educative article.I would stay around your blog to learn more.best regards.

    • “happiness is free” love that haha 😀

  11. Joseph Ferland Joseph Ferland

    What a great post.  Very informative and many of the points made are sound recommendations.  Posture is essential to many parts of life and just as maintaining a car, the body requires this also.  Myself, I am disabled and it involves the spine.  However, being conscious of one’s own posture can not only mean better performance, but better mental attitude.

    For some of us, there are events in life that posture can be difficult at time, thus resulting in much pain.  Those are some of the days when being social is difficult and it has an effect on one’s moods as well as to how the body reacts..  For others, just sitting tall or standing tall can make a difference in mental acuity.

    Years ago, we had a deal with the juvenile courts in our area to let us take on the non-violent kids who didn’t think much of themselves.  Through Martial Arts, we would teach them a lot about their postures and the effects it had on them.  Amazing turn of attitude when they were taught to stand straight, sit up, and be proud of who they were.   

     Thanks for this post and I hope you will be able to help many out there.

    • Sorry to hear about your spine, but freaking awesome that you could help kids through martial arts!

      This is another topic, but it is incredible how beneficial and transformative the process of making gradual improvements in sports or exercise can be for people with low self-esteem.

      I did some martial arts (taijutsu) when I was a young kid, and MMA when I got older. But it never really stuck with me. CrossFit and weight training were what ended up helping me change.

  12. Musbau Shittu Musbau Shittu

    Thanks for writing this wonderful review on how good posture benefits overall happiness. You really did a great job doing all your research before publishing this post. reading this article gives me more knowledge on how posture benefit ones health. Now you have enlightenment me on how good posture benefit overall happiness that are little but are important in our live.

    • I am thrilled that you liked it Musbau 🙂

  13. Alex Alex

    Hi Marcus. I wish I could met you say a really big thanks to you for writing this great article about posture. I’m struggling with my social life and it really sucks. Well, I do hangout with my old friends but can’t get a new one lol. I think I’ll just have to change my posture now and work on Ergonomics. Thanks for the sharing 

    • Sorry to hear that Alex. Please know that if you want it to get better (which I assume you do), I am 100 % sure that you can make it better.

      It is a trick of the mind to think that you are stuck with your current situation because everything always changes and nothing remains the same. Social skill is something you train through being exposure to social situations again and again. I think it is fair to compare it to a muscle because it stronger as you train it, but it can weaken if left unused.

  14. Paul Kely Paul Kely

    Wow, it’s an Amazing article. I have read it very attentively, I have learned a lot of information from your article about our body posture. I did not know about body posture before. You have triggered a desire for being more aware of my own posture and perhaps work on improving it. Thank you very much

    • That was my purpose for writing this article. I am happy I could trigger this desire in you Paul 😀

  15. ajibola40 ajibola40

    Thanks for writing this wonderful article on how good posture benefits overall happiness. You really did a great job doing all your findings and research before writing this article.reading this article am more enlighten about posture how it benefit my health, before now I don’t use to take note of this things. That are little but are important in our day to day activities as a human being 

    • Yep, posture is important. But I think it is probably one of those things where you don’t really realize it until you end up with a posture that sucks lol.

  16. Peace Peace

    I struggled with low self esteem, most of my life and when I decided to post help online. Bloggers were like, ”square your shoulders and straighten, it makes you believe you have self confidence.”

    At the time, it didn’t make much sense to me, but no the long run, it became a reality. 

    Where I come from, it is believed that if you place your hand on your chin, then you are mourning somebody, even though you are just doing it out of habit. So, I agree that posture place an indelible roll in our over all happiness. 

    • That is so cool that you also experienced more self-confidence from having a good posture.

      It is funny how you say “believe you have self-confidence”, and it makes me wonder if there is another source of self-confidence that is not a belief…

  17. Rob S. Rob S.

    As I read this, I’m thinking of how much sense it makes.
    Sitting up straight with good posture does seem to make a difference.
    It does change your mental performance and how you act toward situations.
    I am much like you in that I would never participate in class or any other thing for that matter.
    But being conscious about your posture makes sense and does work.
    This takes me back to my mom always tell me to sit up straight!
    Do you feel that changing your posture is something that will become natural after time?

    • For most parts, I have felt that changing posture was like changing any other habit. It is very hard in the beginning but quickly becomes easier until it is almost effortless. But I do have some issues with getting my shoulders in a completely relaxed position all the time. Typically they will round a bit forward if I have been stressed or very occupied working on the computer for a whole day.

  18. Mark Mark

    This is something I need to pay specific attention to, because my posture is pretty terrible. Granted I’ve seen worse, I know I have to fix mine before I end up with major problems. I like the way you mention that bad posture isn’t always the result of a negative mindset, but sometimes the other way around. A few years ago, I attended a Tony Robbins event and I remember him essentially saying the same thing. He was talking about getting into a better state and how hard it is to remain in a bad state, once you actually sit up straight and put your shoulders back. Same goes for breathing and I know I’m guilty of taking short, shallow breaths without giving it much thought. Thanks for sharing!

    • I have watched Toby Robbins talk about “states” as well, but only on youtube though. I think it is a very insightful way to think about and explain reactions and behaviors.

      By the way, yoga and meditation will fix your breathing if you are up for it haha 🙂

  19. AnxietyPanda will surely be focusing more on her posture from now on!
    Love the Yoga suggestion – just another reason why practicing Yoga is amazing <3

    • Yes, yoga is awesome and has helped me a lot! Thanks, Panda 🙂

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