Remember when I made it a resolution to “stand up straighter”? Well, I failed miserably at it for more than a year. I gave up at some point during 2016 and figured I’d always be a sloucher. In March, after hurting my neck/shoulder/back while sleeping, my quest for better posture was reinvigorated.
I implemented a few new things and, I have to say, my posture has legitimately improved. In the past couple of months, I’ve had random people mention that I have great posture (which has never happened before in my life). People whom I have known for ages have remarked either on my better posture or simply stated that I seemed taller. I think I cracked the code for better posture and it can apply to other good habits you want to implement too.
Here’s what worked for me:
ONE // Make the decision and commit
Deciding to implement a new habit is easy, but committing to it is easier said than done. Although it seems obvious, you can’t expect a healthy habit just to stick without commitment. Once I hurt my back, I knew I needed to have better posture, and I was ready mentally to make the change, even if it was going to be a challenge.
TWO // Carve Out Specific Time
This is one of the best tricks that I implemented. Trying to stand up straighter every second of the day is kind of setting yourself up for failure. If you could do the healthy habit all the time right out of the gate, then wouldn’t you have already done it? Instead, I picked a few daily tasks where I was going to focus on it. And every time I did those tasks, I’d remind myself that I was going to concentrate on my posture while I did it. I picked brushing my teeth, cooking, and walking the dogs.
All three were strategic. For brushing my teeth, I stand facing my reflection and concentrate for the two-ish minutes on perfect posture. (It helps to see what I actually look like!) While cooking, it’s helpful to focus on my posture while I’m slightly moving around and doing a task. Sometimes I would catch myself in a slouch, especially after a long day, but that was happening less and less the more I did it. And, lastly, walking the dogs was the best time to focus on my posture while walking. Since I walk the dogs four times a day and each walk is about 10 minutes, every day I spend 40 minutes of otherwise idle time working on my good habit.
THREE // Research
A major thing that helped me was researching posture. I didn’t set out to research posture, but I happened to read a book that focused on this while I was in the middle of my social experiment and it made a HUGE difference in my attitude towards slouching. (The book was Presence by the way, and I think that it should be required reading.) I went from feeling like it was something I had to do for basic appearances to something I should do for all kinds of health-related (physical and mental) reasons.
FOUR // Set Yourself Up for Success
At first, I thought this would fall under my second point, but after some consideration, I thought it should stand on its own. I spend a lot of time sitting at my desk and driving. In both scenarios, I hadn’t always been setting myself up for success posture-wise. My desk chair is super comfortable, and I maybe get a little too cozy in it. And I found myself mindlessly slouching a lot in the car while driving, especially for long distances. I made two big changes for both of these settings.
First, I started sitting on the floor while I work. I realize this wouldn’t work for everybody, but since I work from home, I have no problem with it. Sitting on the floor forces me to think about sitting up straight, and it also aligns my laptop, which rests on the coffee table, more ergonomically. It took a couple of weeks to get used to this, but I noticed a significant change in my slouching and back/shoulder pain after a long desk day.
Second, I started taking my hair out of ponytails and buns while driving. Sounds so dumb, but I realized that my bad posture in the car was made worse by not being able to align my head back against the seat because of my hairstyles. With my hair down, I have much better alignment.
FIVE // Building Strength and Stretching
Working out in the gym and having better overall strength has certainly helped. It’s undeniable that it’s easier to stand up straighter when you have a stronger core. The other side of this, though, is to make sure I was stretching enough too. I’ve been trying to stretch as much as possible, regardless of whether I’m working out or not. I looked up some great shoulder stretches on Youtube that helps me “open” my shoulders up more.
While my posture may not be perfect still, it’s improved so much since March. It’s been such a good experiment, and it feels good to know that it’s possible to break bad habits and set new ones.