Whether you are a top-level CEO or a college graduate going for your first interview, we’ve all heard the importance of body language and body posture, and how a first impression is everlasting.
As a self-described “sloucher,” I never realized how much I was handicapping myself in meetings, social gatherings or simply at the store buying groceries. Last year, my personal trainer at the gym directed me to “square up” when applying myself at the gym. Looking at my stance, I was never more aware of how I let my shoulders, back, and neck slump more than when I was locked into the fitness machines that haunted my Monday mornings before work. But it was a lesson that was well worth the hours of sweat and mental re-positioning.
With smartphones and computers entering our lifestyles at every turn, there are plenty of ways that poor posture is rewarded or at least unconsciously entering our lives. In this guide, I want to share with you reasons the benefits of ditching the slouch and ways you can consciously project a better image using body language.
Benefits of Ditching the Slouch
There are many reasons why people should ditch the slouch and adopt a healthier stance. I’d like to share with you the health and perception-based benefits of a healthier posture.
Better posture allows your lungs to do their job, uninhibited. Deeper breathing has numerous benefits including reduced anxiety, releasing carbon dioxide from your body, oxygenating your muscles, and increased energy levels.
Aided by better breathing, having more oxygen in your body allows you to concentrate on the work in front of you. Deep breathing is touted by yogis and other mindfulness gurus to not only relax but improve your focus and perspective.
Prevent health Issues down the road
An upright posture is healthier than slouching. When hunched over your laptop or keyboard, you are contorting your body in an unnatural shape. Adopting a better posture now can prevent wear and tear on your body. Your joints, muscles, and bones will thank you.
Better Image (and Confidence!)
Next time you are in a busy café, office building, or shopping center, take a glance at the body language presented in that setting.
What do the people projecting good posture look like? Do they move with confidence or even grace? What inferences can you make about them or their careers?
Now, look at some people who are exhibiting less-than-optimal posture. What do you infer about them from their body language? If they were in a meeting next to you, do you think that they project confidence for their upcoming presentation?
This example isn’t intended to pick on those who suffer from poor posture, but even casual reinforces the research that good posture elevates your mood and perspective. It’s no surprise that people who exhibited more powerful body language were found to feel more powerful by researchers from Columbia and Harvard.
The animal kingdom is full of examples of creatures who use body language to leverage a sense of power and dominance. From higher order mammals like gorillas to even smaller lizards, our furry and scaled friends have mastered body language and you can too!
How to Ditch the Slouch
Sit or Stand Consciously
My biggest struggle came from me going to the gym and feeling unequipped to deal with the exercises my trainer had presented. After I consciously decided that I needed to work on my posture, I found myself “auditing” my posture throughout the day.
Simply being aware of the image you are presenting can help you project better body language. The first step is being aware of the issue and mentally working to change those behaviors.
Find a Mnemonic Device
This will be different for everyone, but I asked myself: “Do you have the stance of a gorilla or a bug?”. Admittedly this is a little silly, but who would you rather have as a lifting partner or leading the board meeting- someone with the stance of a gorilla or someone scrunched up like a bug?
The human mind is fascinating and creating a personal and unique mnemonic device can help you correct these behaviors.
Watch Yourself Stand Comfortably in a Mirror
Another self-reflection. Take the time to stand in front of a full-length mirror comfortably. Do your shoulders, neck, and chest slump forward? If so, consciously working on your stance at home and in public will allow you to gradually change your posture.
Get a Better Chair and Work Space
Getting a better chair that supports upright posture is crucial. If you are not comfortable sitting upright in your chair or if there is something in your office space that is prevent proper posture while working, it’s time to make a change.
Strengthening your core muscle groups allows for a stable and comfortable posture. Aside from the mood benefits of exercise, you are contributing to a healthy skeletal system which supports a healthy posture.
Long Project? Get Out of Your chair!
When you are working for many hours on a project, you may think that you are cranking through your work, but taking a break from long projects in front of the computer can help avoid you getting comfortable in a slouching position.
The small break you take from your work will boost your mood and moving around during the work day will help you get more done, in better spirits.
Good Posture isn’t meant to be painful but rather it’s the natural stance everyone should adopt for health, social, and productive reasons. By changing your behaviors, you can consciously reap the benefits of having proper posture. Reading this article is a great first step to feeling more powerful, energized, and confident. Now go out there and stand up for yourself!
Phil Mackie is the Digital Marketer for the café chair and hospitality furniture company, Table and Chair Express. When he isn’t blogging about workplace productivity and technologies, he can be found enjoying the great outdoors, any way he can.