In an excellent piece in the New York Times, Amy Cuddy talks to New Zealand physiotherapist Steve August, who says he’s seeing the kind of frozen upper back afflictions once reserved for grandmothers starting to appear in teenagers. When you bend forward your 10-12 pound head turns into a 60 pound (roughly 27 kilograms) bowling bowl of weight, creating an enormous strain on the neck.
But even more worryingly, as Cuddy points out, when we’re sad we slouch. And this is a situation in which the chicken and the egg aren’t anywhere near being clear-cut.
The piece outlines numerous studies, including one of the author’s own, that illustrate:
a) Posture can affect your emotional state, with a recent study asking participants to either sit upright or slouch before answering a mock job interview question and a series of questionnaires; the slouchers reported lower self-esteem and greater fear, which was then reflected in their answers.
b) Posture can also affect your memory, creating a negative recall bias, meaning slouchers tend to more easily remember unhappy events, emotions or details.
c) The size of your device might affect your posture and therefore your assertiveness, meaning the smartphone — a device designed to increase your productivity — may in fact be having the opposite effect.
In short, you need to change the way you use your phone. And Cuddy’s story builds on significant scientific research into smartphones and their effect on our lives and our psychology in particular. This Association For Psychological Science Observer story is a good primer, gathering research on how our most important digital devices affect our sleep, levels of stress and personality.
It’s a potent reminder for us to keep our smartphone use under control, or at least think very carefully about the ways in which we use them. They’re a tool, basically, and it’s up to us to master them rather than the other way round.
So it's time to take control with a posture solution that works!
And feel the benefits!