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Experiment Log No. 17 — Improving default posture

In this experiment I attempt to get rid of my lifelong slouch by posting reminders to stand up straight all over my house. The idea is very simple. I put a dozen or so tiny colored stickers in places where I will constantly be seeing them. When I see them I will remember to stand up straight. If I spent more time standing up straight than slouching, I expect my normal posture to shift to standing up straight.

The experiment begins Monday, December 16 and ends Wednesday, January 1.

Updates will be posted here.

12/30/2013

After two weeks I notice myself slouching less. Several times a day I see my stickers and make a small adjustment. I’ve also noticed that I think of it at times when I’m away from home and there are no stickers to remind me.

It is a hard thing to evaluate though. It is theoretically possible that I’m slouching at all times when I’m not thinking of not slouching. There are a few more days in the experiment and once it’s complete I’ll ask some of the people who know me if they’ve noticed a difference.

I can vouch for the sticker method though, and I will be using it as a reminder system for other experiments. I was worried I’d become blind to the stickers, but I haven’t. I’ll make sure and remove them when I’m done this experiment, and to use a different color next time, so they don’t become too familiar.

1/4/2014

Well the year is over and that means so is the experiment. As some predicted, my stickers gradually became invisible to me, but not before I began to associate my hallway and kitchen archway with correcting my slouch, and now I think of it any time I move between rooms in my apartment. My brain made a similar association with walking on the sidewalk and standing up straight, so I’m doing it outside too.

It’s hard to tell exactly how much has changed, because our posture is often invisible to us. But even as the stickers became less likely to register when I saw them, I noticed myself correcting my posture more and more throughout the day. It feels good to remember to keep my shoulders up and it’s become noticeably more natural to me.

So I’m declaring this tiny experiment to be a success, although the sticker method of habit change seems to have a time limit before they stop actually reminding you. I suppose if you got in the habit of moving these reminders around and making them more prominent (a sticky note on your steering wheel, for example) then you may get more mileage out of it.

THE END

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{ 20 Comments }

Veronique December 16, 2013 at 4:06 am

Hi David –

I’ve used this method to great success. However, we tend to easily stop seeing the stickies. They need to be moved around and changing colors helps. Yellow is a good color to use.

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Anne Brien December 16, 2013 at 4:11 am

I like this idea. For me it’s mindfulness that needs attention at the moment. I’m off to find my sticky labels…

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quillan camper December 16, 2013 at 5:28 am

If you’re of average height, standing up straight makes you look taller and more assured which must give you an advantage socially. Also, you will not cringe as I do when I see a candid photo of my hunched self which is like announcing to the world that I am feeling defeated. It’s basic body language, isn’t it?

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David Cain December 16, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Yes, I think it is the most basic body language, and it says so much. Even if it doesn’t a give a different impression (and I doubt that) it still changes my attitude immediately, and they’ll react differently to that.

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Angela December 16, 2013 at 5:30 am

Hi,

don’t get too down on yourself for not standing up straight. like you said, your muscles feel at home in the slouched position. correcting posture is not something you can do by sheer will power. it’s due to lifelong muscle imbalances – tightness in the pecs, shoulders, and traps that pull you forward combined with weakness in the lower scapular rotators that make those tight muscles even tighter and overactive. everyone has their own patterns of muscle imbalances, and you have to work to correct that. seeing a personal trainer who specializes in corrective exercises can fix these patterns and correct your posture without you having to “think about it.” posture is an unconscious process, and the muscles just need to be retrained. look at trainers with NASM or CSCS certifications. good luck!

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LunaJune December 16, 2013 at 9:20 am

anything that brings our focus to the now is worth paying attention too
the nuns for years tried to get me to stand up straight but of course I found letting it all be relaxed just a tad easier, and they used rulers and force, so of course that didn’t work LOL
good luck

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kate December 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm

oh yes….surely, how we hold ourselves says a lot about who we really are. slouching won’t really let the real you show…lol. and on this subject of ‘habits’, you recently asked us what we wanted to hear about..what topics we wish you to write on. and my first thought was ‘why do old habits die hard’? Well, why do they??? That could be a complex topic..
meanwhile, here’s to a good posture!!!

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offgridgirl December 16, 2013 at 4:43 pm

David, we enjoy your thoughts ……..how unique! Keep up the skill set building, I.e. the baked bread, etc…have been off grid for almost ten years….bought land in my late thirties and built house that is just now 75% done……excited to read more about your journey on this training ground of life. Take care:-)

{ Reply }

Russell December 16, 2013 at 4:47 pm

As an observation

slouch and posture are two different things.

Posture is a culmination of good or bad habits, Slouching is bad posture.

Stand up more with bare feet, conscious walking with good form stimulates the proprioceptive system, go walking with bare feet to promote better posture.

Slouching then can become an act of mindfulness against bad posture, not a default position

Regards Russell

{ Reply }

Wanda December 16, 2013 at 9:50 pm

I’ve been working on posture as well for most of my life (always nagged by my dad to stop slouching). After a car accident, my physiotherapist told me to image a solar panel in the middle of my chest. To get ‘power’ throughout the day, all I have to do is point my solar panel to the sun (lift my chest up and forward) and automatically my shoulders relaxed and my posture linses up. A simple trick that I use daily and my posture is great now!

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David Cain December 18, 2013 at 8:49 am

I like that one, because I don’t have any reminders when I’m outside.

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Shari December 17, 2013 at 1:29 am

Posture is a topic I too find absolutely fascinating. I recently read ‘Light on life’ by B.K.S Iyengar and jotted down this great quote about posture:
“The corners of the chest are pillars: they should always be firm. Slouching acts like a narcotic to the body. When our parents tell us not to slouch, it is because they instinctively understand that collapsing the chest caves in the very Self. It is because your mind shrinks that your soul shrinks. It is the spines job to keep the mind alert. To do this, the spine has to keep the brain in position. The spine must never be slack but must reach up to the Self. Otherwise the divine light within you dims. “

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David Cain December 18, 2013 at 8:46 am

There certainly is an immediate emotional “lift” that happens when I stand up straight. For me it’s very tightly tied with self-esteem.

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Vasti December 17, 2013 at 6:51 am

HI David. This is a great idea. I think one can use it as a small reminder of more than just psoture. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Linda Lesperance December 24, 2013 at 6:16 pm

I totally agree with Angela’s comments. Using sticky dots may help, momentarily, to remind you to stand up straight but a lifetime of slouching
means that the muscles and signals have to be retrained. A personal trainer, a Pilates instructor or Yoga teacher will be able to help you lengthen your spine and keep you on the straight and narrow! Go for it!

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Josh Frets January 7, 2014 at 7:35 pm

I fixed my posture in the last year. Well, it’s a work in progress, but the changes have been huge.

Some of the big things that have helped:
-standing desk. A tallish table, my laptop on a box up to navel height, second monitor on a board across my speakers at eye height.
-mobility/corrective exercises. Specifically wall slides, glute bridges, doorway stretchs, & hip flexor/couch stretches.
-practicing with a sleep mask/blindfold on. Looking down at your hands while playing guitar is a surefire way to eff up your posture.
-rolfing. This really jump-started the mobility/corrective work by giving me a clean slate to work from.

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Tim June 29, 2014 at 2:03 pm

A really simple idea I picked up at uni from a rowing colleague:

Get some tape (and put it on fabric a couple of times so it isn’t quite so sticky if you have a hairy back), and stick a big X over your back, running from over each shoulder down to the opposite hip. Do this with your back set in the correct posture, and it’ll pull on your shoulders the moment you slouch.

This works a lot better than the sticky dots method because, rather than reminding you an in-determinate amount of time after you start to slouch to correct it, you instead feel the tape pull the moment you start to slouch, giving you the chance to correct the behavior immediately

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