Day 1: Why Posture Matters
Over the next 7 days,We will be sharing a lot of information about spinal hygiene and posture. But before we dive deeply into these subjects, I need to talk about why they matter to your health. Put simply, spinal hygiene and posture are important because of the role they play in maintaining a healthy, responsive nervous system.
You genuinely perceive and live every facet of your life through your nervous system, from the most basic of bodily processes to the most high-minded of thoughts. Your nervous system controls each time you swallow. Each time your heart beats, you blink your eyes, or you breathe in, it is your nervous system that makes it happen. In a more conscious way, for me to be able to write this message, or for you to be able to read it, our nervous systems must be engaged to formulate and decipher the words that compose it. From low to high function, it is the single, controlling force of your life and you absolutely need to take the best care of it that you can.
Yet so many people don’t take care of their nervous systems, and consequently, dis-ease sets into their bodies. They develop soreness in their neck or back, they have headaches, they have digestive issues, respiratory illnesses. They suffer through excruciating pain.
Back pain will affect 80% of people at some point in their life. Recently, back pain has been ranking as the number 3 or 4 reason that people visit the ER. Because your back is dominated by your spine and the spine is built to protect your central nervous system, back pain is the most obvious connection to nervous system disease. But it’s certainly not the only symptom.
In addition to causing back pain, poor posture:
Affects your balance, which is important for simple tasks like walking and getting up out of a chair, but also for bigger things like preventing falls
Collapses the lungs, limiting your ability to take full deep breaths
Squeezes internal organs, like your stomach and heart, which can lead to digestive and/or cardiovascular problems, respectively
Over these next few weeks, we will discover and explore the importance of your nervous system and its connection to posture. Each day, you'll be given you a Health Action Plan to begin making changes to your posture and your life. We fully believe that as you incorporate each small change into your life, you’ll impact your posture, your health, and your wellbeing. You have the power to positively change your life forever!
Here’s how we will start:
Learn how to assess your posture
Discuss the impact of posture on the health of your body, mind, and spirit
Lesson on how to set-up your environment to promote good posture
Lessons on a variety of exercises that can strengthen important muscles within your body and improve your posture
Day 2: Whole Person Perspective
From a cultural perspective, our thoughts on posture are generally reduced down to “sitting up straight” and “keeping your shoulders back.” But posture relates to your whole body and your entire wellbeing. It should mean so much more than just a couple of simplistic phrases.
The Dimensions of Wellbeing give us a framework with which to understand the four main components of a person’s full health and wellbeing: the Physical, Environmental, Emotional, Financial, and Social. These Dimensions can also help us understand how posture fits into a person’s whole health and why it’s so important.
The physical body is influenced by how and how often you move. We are designed to move and to be able to move for our entire lives, but our sedentary lifestyles and sometimes our health symptoms keep us still. Changes to our lifestyle can support our movement.
Involves considering the interactions between your environment, your community, and yourself. The environment includes not only the natural environment but also your social environment.
Understanding your own feelings and expressing emotions in a constructive way. It is also the ability to manage stress and cope with life's challenges.
Is about a sense of security and feeling as though you have enough money to meet your needs. It's about being in control of your day-to-day finances and having the financial freedom to make choices that allow you to enjoy life.
Refers to the quality of the relationships you have and how you interact with others. Building supportive relationships, dealing with conflict effectively, and making the time for socializing contribute to your overall wellness.
We’ll talk more about these connections to posture over the next few weeks, but if you’d like a sneak peek, read this article.
Today’s homework 
Do 1 minute of deep breathing.
Before you start, notice how you are feeling.
Set a timer for one minute.
Breathe in for a count of four.
Hold for a count of four.
Breathe out for a count of four.
Hold for a count of four.
Repeat until the timer sounds.
Notice how you are feeling after.
Day 3: Assess Your Posture
You’ve spent a few days now tuning into your posture. With the homework assignments, you’ve been considering how you feel in your body and what your posture is like at different times during the day.
Acquiring a clear understanding of what your posture currently looks like and where you’re starting from is the first step in making changes and getting things where you want them to be. Try not to judge things right now, in this moment. Just look at your body as you stand and observe what it looks like.
In addition to assessing your body when it is standing still, part of understanding your posture is considering how your body moves. Your gait (how your feet fall and where you feel pressure) and what you carry will also impact your posture.
Today’s homework 
Make a detailed assessment of your posture. Before you start, you’ll need a partner and a camera.
Grab a pen, a friend, and your phone camera! Let’s assess your posture!
Day 4: The Emotional Side of Posture
In 2012, researcher Amy Cuddy gave a TED talk called “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” It remains one of the most impactful lectures I’ve ever seen.
In the talk, she describes certain positions known as “power poses.” For example, standing like Wonder Woman : upright, legs spread shoulder-width apart, hands on hips, shoulders back. Cuddy’s research showed that adopting any of these power poses for at least two minutes had the potential to significantly boost a person’s confidence.
But the emotional side of good posture isn’t just limited making someone feel more self-assured. Other studies show that merely sitting up straighter in your chair can help improve feelings of sadness, even in people suffering from clinical depression. These studies have also shown that “sitting upright can make you feel more proud after a success, increase your persistence at an unsolvable task, and make you feel more confident in your thoughts.” Furthermore, research suggests that “sitting upright can make you feel more alert and enthusiastic, feel less fearful, and have higher self-esteem after a stressful task.”
These statements speak to the tremendous variety of emotions that are impacted by the way we carry our body! To be clear, these studies do not suggest that poor posture causes depression or that clinical depression can be cured through better posture, but research conducted by academics like Amy Cuddy and Dr. Elizabeth Broadbent show that better posture can lead to people being more energetic, talkative, and engaged; all signs that depression is lifting.
Today’s homework 
Watch the TED talk (21 minutes)
Day 5: Posture and Mood
Amy Cuddy (remember her from yesterday’s TED talk?) not only studies big poses that we make with our entire body, but she has also researched the way that small parts of our body can impact our mood. She describes a study done where the researchers had their subjects hold a pen  between their teeth, either forcing them to smile, or preventing them from smiling. They found that those who were forced to smile by the pen actually felt happier and calmer.
Your physical body impacts your mental and emotional state. This is true if your body is slumped, slouchy, and dejected, and it’s also true if you just have a smile on your face. Your physical body also affects your self-confidence and your self-compassion.
I have a long mirror in my office. When I take on a new client, I start their assessment by having them stand straight in front of the mirror. I can tell a lot about how people feel just by how they stand in front of the mirror.
Many people, for instance, shrink and look down, focusing their gaze somewhere around their feet or ankles. They don’t look themselves in the eye. Their inability to meet their own gaze tells me that, for whatever reason, they don’t feel confident in themselves and that, consequently, their mental well-being is suffering.
Now, how do you feel about your body? About your abilities and personal worth?
Here’s the thing: if you don’t love yourself, you’ll never really see who you are. When you’re able to feel self-compassion and see yourself through the eyes of someone who cares deeply and unconditionally about you, then you’ll truly be able to meet your own gaze in the mirror. As my friend, Dr. Amit Sood said, “Don’t doubt yourself.”
Confidence is the true feeling of self-worth you project to the world and self-compassion is the firm belief in your underlying value directed inward. Both of them affect your overall mood and posture can help to significantly improve these feelings.
Part 1: When you have good posture, it helps make you feel more self-confident, even without doing anything else! Try sitting with poor posture right now for 30 seconds. Slump down and lower your head. Notice how you feel. Now, switch to a healthy posture for 30 seconds. Is there any difference in how you feel from one to the other? Simplify your thoughts about it by rating your feelings on a 1 - 4 scale:
4 - Very Good
3 - Good
2 - Poor
1 - Very Poor
Part 2: Smile. You don’t have to be feeling it, just go ahead and fake it. How do you feel? How do other people respond to you?
Amy Cuddy’s book Presence
Day 6: Change Your Environment: Bedtime
How did you sleep last night? More to my point, how did you feel this morning when you woke up? Did you bounce out of bed or hit the snooze button a few times? Did you feel any aches and pains? A crick in your neck? A twinge in your shoulder? An achy hip?
Here’s the deal: you spend 8 hours of your day sleeping (Sleep Foundation). If you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep, you’re in whatever preferred position you sleep in for quite a substantial amount of time. If your neck is turned at a hard angle against your pillow, of course it’s going to hurt when you wake up!
You need to sleep in a position that’s going to be the most comfortable for you in the long run, because I’ve found that those little aches and pains you have in the morning build up over the course of your life and really start taking their toll in your 50s and 60s.
Let’s get down to it. Do you know if you sleep on your back, side, stomach, or curled up in the fetal position? It’s time to find out!
Check this out. In the opening scene of Back to the Future, Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, is sound asleep when his alarm clock goes off. He’s sleeping on his stomach with his arms trapped over and under his body, his hips twisted, and one knee up.
Marty may be a nice guy, but the stomach sleeping position and the fetal position he’s in are the two worst possible positions for sleep. Sleeping on your stomach puts strain on your neck, shoulders, and hips. The fetal position strains your back all the way down to, and including, your hips. If you sleep in either of these ways, consider changing to a healthier position.
Watch this video (39 seconds).
What is your favorite sleep position? How is it impacting your posture?
If you are not sleeping in the best sleep position, begin today to improve your sleep posture. Gather the extra pillows that you will need to start changing your sleep position. To become a side or back sleeper, you need a supportive neck pillow, body pillows, and a pillow to place between your knees.
The key here is to be patient through this process. When you lay down at night, start off in the correct position. Pack the pillows around you and just relax. Do some deep breathing. It will probably take you a little longer to fall asleep, but give it a chance.
When you roll over or revert back to your old way of sleeping during the night, it’s ok! If you wake up enough to realize you’ve gotten out of position, take a moment to get back into it, relax, and go back to sleep.
Day 7: Change Your Environment: Electronic Devices
I’m sure by now you’ve seen or heard about the phenomenon of “text neck,” it’s caused by the way people lean their head forward as they look down at their smartphones. Maybe you’ve even caught yourself in this pose. If people use their devices like this, it can be very damaging to their posture. Your body simply isn’t designed for the strain of this “text neck” position.
Your head weighs about 12 pounds. That may not seem like a lot and it isn’t, as long as you have your head aligned with your neck and over your shoulders. Your body can easily balance that weight. But when you lower your head to look down on the screen of a smartphone or tablet, it can add up to 60 pounds of pressure on your neck! Not only that, but inclining your head forward the way most people do when using their phones can cause your jaw to move forward as well, potentially causing jaw pain and TMJ. If you find yourself in this position often, you need to adjust the approach you take with your device.
Another important thing to consider about phones/tablets is how often you use them. Recent statistics say that 75% of people never turn their phones off and that 46% of people check their phone within the first 5 minutes of waking up. It’s no big deal to check a text and respond. It takes about 1 minute of looking down at your phone. But if you are spending 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or a full hour staring down at your phone, what are you doing? Why are you on your phone for so long? Often the heart of the question is what are you avoiding?
Pay attention to how you are using your devices throughout the day. Are you looking down? Is your head tilted? Is your hand bent awkwardly to reach keys? Adjust how you’re using them to relieve the stress on your neck.
For your phone:
When you’re texting, scrolling, or reading on your phone, hold the phone at eye level. This centers your head over your shoulders, where its weight can be properly supported, instead of pulling the head forward and putting strain on your neck. When your arms get tired, it’s time to put the phone away.
When you’re talking on your phone, consider using a headset. This eliminates any need to hold the phone between your ear and your shoulder.
For your tablet:
When you type on your tablet, try propping it up to roughly a 30° angle. When you’re just reading, hold the tablet at an angle more perpendicular to your body.
Part #2 of 7 Days of Posture coming soon!