When we set out to make lifestyle changes in order to improve our well-being, we often look for ways to sneak in more movement, clean up our eating choices, or prioritize quality sleep. While those are all important pieces of whole human well-being, another aspect that doesn’t get enough credit is our posture. In fact, research shows that good posture can lead to benefits that go far beyond sitting up straighter. There’s evidence that healthy posture can help improve focus, confidence, and performance at work — along with giving you a mental health and happiness boost.
We asked our Thrive community for the small tweaks that have helped them improve their posture — and how doing so has impacted their lives. Which of these tips will you try?
Roll up a scarf to DIY lumbar pillow
“I tend to slump when I drive and it makes me tight and crotchety, so I ball up my scarf and pop it behind my back to keep my spine neutral and my chest and shoulders open. It’s simple, yet so effective for a long commute!”
— Samantha McPherson, physiotherapist, London, U.K.
Pinch your shoulder blades together
“When I began lifting weights, I discovered that the muscles around my shoulder blades were not as strong as I had thought, and as a result, my posture wasn’t great either. To lift weights safely, I began practicing pinching my shoulder blades to develop stronger muscles. This not only helped strengthen my muscles for my workout, but I discovered it helped my health and mental state. Today, I pinch my shoulder blades while at my desk, before walking out on stage, or walking anywhere. It improves my energy, my focus, my confidence, and my mood.”
—Francine Tone, attorney, business strategist, and leadership trainer, Truckee, CA
Visualize an anti-slouch posture
“After years as a ballet teacher and gym instructor, I can say that using imagery is a great way to help change your posture — and it can be done anywhere, whether you’re sitting at work or walking. It’s just a matter of finding the right imagery that works for you. A couple of my go-to visualization exercises that I’ve used with clients and students: imagine yourself as a puppet with a string attached to the top of your head pulling you straight, or imagine you’re wearing long dangly earrings and trying not to let them touch your shoulders.”
—Jill Lister-Martin, health coach, Wellington, New Zealand
Strike a power pose
“The next time you’re in line at the supermarket or the bank, try this power pose. Start by planting both feet firmly on the ground, keeping your legs straight with a soft bend in your knees, spine elongated, chest expanded, and a slight pulling in of the abdomen. Keep your shoulders relaxed and shoulder blades pulling back toward each other. This standing position not only increases oxygenation and blood flow to your tissues and brain, but also relieves pressure on your joints and ligaments, and reduces compression in your back.”
—Audra L. Stawicki, doctor of physical therapy, yoga instructor, and health and wellness specialist, New Haven, CT
Take your calls standing up
“Having a standing desk in my office has been life-changing. While it may be tempting to sit down if I feel tired, I realized how much more energized and focused I am when standing up. It has significantly improved my productivity and decreased any tension from my neck and shoulders.”
—Isabelle Bart, marketing director, Irvine, CA
Set digital reminders
“We are built to move, and fidgeting helps us stay focussed, increases blood flow and reduces possible joint pain. My smart watch tells me to move every 30 minutes, even if I just jiggle in my chair and roll my shoulders. It also reminds me to stop tensing up!”
—Samantha McPherson, specialist physiotherapist, London, UK
Try yoga and meditation
“I rely on a combination of yoga, meditation, and monthly visits to the chiropractor. Because of these practices, I am more conscious of my posture and can better correct it when I do notice that I’m slouching. Focusing on better posture has helped ease my lower back, shoulder, and neck pain, and even helps me breathe easier. But beyond these physical gains, nothing beats better posture for giving me a quick confidence boost.”
—Cindy Duke, freelance writer, Brentwood, CA
Look for reinforcement — in the mirror
“Good posture not only makes you feel better — it also makes you look better! I always ask my clients to look at themselves in the mirror when they stand in their ‘usual’ posture and then look at themselves when they stand with a straight back, shoulders back, head in the correct position. When they see with their own eyes how much of a difference it makes, they always feel motivated to work on their posture.”
—Isabel Galiano, health and cancer coach, Singapore
Do you have a go-to tip that helps improve your posture? Share it with us in the comments!