December 3rd, 2013
Have you ever noticed that wall you hit a few hours into work? That unbearable feeling that you just can’t anymore?
That might have to do with the way you are sitting right now. Shoulders hunched, looking down at your laptop? Yup, resting that way is not doing your productivity any favors. This is coming from someone who has spent most of her life with shoulders permanently hiked up to her ears.
Having just procured my first standing desk, I can tell you there is hope. These are three ways your posture is destroying your productivity — and how to fix them.
(1) Hunching Over Your Computer
This is easy to do if you are particularly tired, looking at a small screen, or peering down at your small laptop. Did you know that crouching deprives you of about 30% of your oxygen? This makes it harder to perform at your maximum level. The crazy thing is you might not even realize it since crouching is the default for most people. Now try pulling your shoulders back, and sitting up straight. I dare you. Doesn’t the world suddenly seem that much brighter?
The way that you sit at your computer is also one of the many ways your body language affects your life. Social psychologists (like Amy Cuddy) have found that opening yourself up and taking up more space actually helps decrease your level of Cortisol. In excess, cortisol can cause fat buildup, decrease bone density, and impair cognitive performance. Minimizing it also increases your level of testosterone, which in moderation can help you feel more brave and powerful.
HOW TO FIX IT: Try to open your body as you’re working. Get a laptop stand to put your computer closer to eye level, sit straight up in your chair with your shoulders back and adjust to power poses.
(2) Spending too Much Time Sitting
According to the National Institute of Health, sitting for more than 6 hours a day can increase your risk of heart disease up to 64% and of breast/colon cancer by 30%. It has also proved to increase levels of cortisol — not to mention putting you at risk for that hunching problem above. The more time you spend sitting, the worse it gets.
Side note: Mountains are also much harder to climb when sitting.
HOW TO FIX IT: Make sure to stand at least once an hour — set an alarm if you have to to remind yourself; take the stairs and not the elevator; and walk to talk to a co-worker instead of emailing them.
BONUS TIP: If you can, you should try using a standing desk. Standing desks strengthen muscles, improves blood flow and prevents blood clots. It also helps open your body to be ready for action. The fact that my co-workers have witnessed some high energy dance parties due to my new-found energy is just a bonus!
This one relates to facial posture, but it still has a big impact on your attitude and outlook on life. Just as opening yourself up and taking up more space can help you feel more powerful, smiling can help you feel happier, and vice versa.
According to a study published by The Journal of Pain (yes, that’s a real thing), people who frowned during procedures experienced more pain. Work by psychologists such as the Netherlands’ Judith Grob has also shown that people who repressed any emotion, tended to have worse performing memories, and more negative associations. Think of that scowl you have on at work as part of a nasty perpetual cycle, and remember that when things seem to be just too much.
Conversely, studies show that smiling causes a release of neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These are responsible for making you feel more relaxed, lifting your mood and making you more productive. Not only does being happy make you smile, but using your smiling muscles makes you feel happy, too.
HOW TO FIX IT: Try to smile as often as you can. This only works if its a natural smile that engages the muscles near your eyes, so try to conjure up some good memories if you have to. I find that if I even type out or write a smile, it helps me do it subconsciously :)
Now that we have you standing, smiling and dancing, we bet you’re knocking that report out of the park — even if your co-workers are giving you some pretty strange looks. So keep your chin up, stand up tall, and get back to work!