speed up to provide enough blood for oxygen transport. The result is a vicious cycle, where stress prompts shallow breathing, which in turn creates more stress.
The fix: Try taking everyday cues—a ringing phone, a stoplight—as reminders to take relaxed abdominal breaths to combat stress. Here’s how to make sure you’re breathing deeply: Rest your hand below your belly button; you should feel your belly expand as you inhale. Invite the air all the way down to the deepest portion of the lungs, where oxygen exchange is most efficient. As you exhale, you should feel your belly contract again and stress leave your body.
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It hurts your job…
Slouching doesn’t just hurt your attitude—it can affect how people see you. “You don’t want to walk into somebody’s office slouching and bent over because people really do perceive you as not as vital,” says Janice Novak, author of Posture, Get it Straight and director of improveyourposture.com. “To improve posture long term, you need to strengthen muscles mid-back,” she says.
The fix: To avoid being a slouch on the job, Novak recommends doing this exercise at your desk: Lift the bottom of your ribcage an inch or two off your hipbone, pulling your shoulder blades back and down. To make sure you maintain the position, pin a ribbon to the top and to bottom of your shirt and keep it taut for 10 minutes at a time.
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It hurts your happiness…
In a study from San Francisco State University, students were told to either walk down a hall in a slouched position or to skip. The slouchers reported increased feelings of depression and lower energy than the skippers.
That’s no surprise to posture expert Carol Krucoff, a yoga teacher and author of Healing Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain and founder of healingmoves.com. “Even our language reflects this connection between proper posture and emotional affect—someone weak is called spineless and someone proud has backbone,” she says.
The fix: Imagine there’s a headlight right in the middle of your chest at the sternum (breast bone), says Krucoff. Sitting or standing, your headlight should always shine forward. Now, keeping your head centered over your shoulders, extend your head toward the ceiling without lifting your chin.