Some 74 percent of us say we’ve been spending more time on our computer or in front of the TV these past few months, forcing us to slouch every day. But this depressed posture is an increasingly common trigger of depressed moods, reveals Erik Peper, PhD, a professor of holistic health at San Francisco State University. His research shows that 86 percent of adults report experiencing more negative emotions when sitting in a hunched position. Why? “Slouching compresses the abdomen, preventing the diaphragm from expanding fully when we breathe,” he explains.
This decreases the amount of oxygen entering the lungs by 30 percent, leading to sluggishness and an overall feeling of meh. The good news: You can improve your posture — and your mood! — in mere minutes. Read on for the easy how-to’s that make perfect posture effortless!
Posture Improver: An Outdoor Stroll
There’s no doubt being surrounded by the great outdoors offers an instant mood boost. In fact, Cornell scientists found that spending just 10 minutes outside dials up joy and curbs stress. To get your daily dose, Peper advises taking nature walks, which come with a posture-perfecting bonus: “When you spend time outside, you automatically look up, lifting you out of the hunched position that wrecks mood and affects your ability to breathe deeply,” he says. “Next time you’re out, notice how easily you look around. Nature inspires you to walk tall without even trying!”
Posture Improver: A Gentle Chime
It’s easy to slouch and not even know it. “This is especially true if you work at a computer because your shoulders, neck, and head are forced to thrust forward toward the screen,” says Peper. The fix: Just set a timer to chime every 15 minutes as a reminder to draw your shoulder blades together, adds Charles D. Rosen, MD, professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of California. “This improves posture by opening your chest. After only a couple of weeks, you’ll automatically pull your shoulders back and won’t even need the alarm.” Not only will this create a more ergonomic sitting position, it’ll also make you more alert, thanks to the deeper breaths you’ll be able to take.
Posture Improver: A Simple Stretch
The daily stretch that spinal surgeon Kenneth K. Hansraj, MD, recommends for better posture: Hold your arms by your sides, palms forward, and stretch your arms out to the sides and overhead, feeling your chest open as you reach up. Then bring your arms back down, feeling your shoulder blades draw closer to each other. “When you open your chest like this, your diaphragm expands more fully and you’ll take in more oxygen,” he explains. “Do this every day, and you’ll improve your posture without even thinking about it — and experience an instant mood boost.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.