Author, Professor and Clinical Psychologist Jordan Peterson writes in his book 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos: Rule 1: Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back. Interesting thought. Now, why is it that a psychologist encourages his readers to stand straight with his/her shoulders back? As a Doctor of Chiropractic, I understand the importance and necessity to elongate the spine, take pressure off the joints and discs of each spinal region, and not giving into gravity and its effects. Not only is it unattractive, but it causes severe mechanical issues and can lead to early degenerative changes and advanced aging.
But why is it so important that Dr. Peterson make it his first of twelve rules? In his book, he explains it has to do with the hormone serotonin and its uptake. Serotonin, sometimes called the happy chemical, contributes to overall well being, regulating memory, learning and aging. He goes on to explain when the body is in improper positioning, the nervous system will compress the nerve roots thus suppressing the production and uptake of serotonin. Without good production of serotonin, we see an increase in depression, aggression and a decrease in our overall well being.
Proper posture will not only improve our mood, it can also improve daily performance. Whether your concern is performing at a physical task such as gardening, dance, or any athletic game, protection of the spine and proper posture will improve the quality of movement and reduce the risk of injury. Proper posture will also assist us in reducing pain due to a sedentary job. Hello serotonin! Sitting up straight with your low back supported and shoulder blades pushed into our back pockets will prove helpful when sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle or while working at a computer for 40+ hours a week.
Proper posture is not easily attainable. Like any bad habit, it takes time to correct. The first key is awareness, also known as ideokinesis. Ideokinesis is the awareness of our movement patterns. Looking for daily activities that trigger our pain is just the beginning. Add to that postural syndromes or advanced degenerative changes in the body such as stenosis or osteoporosis and making a change will take that much longer. Modification is the next step if we want to continue playing 18 holes of golf or hiking 2 miles in the beautiful hill country. Modifying our activities, movement patterns and maintaining proper posture is critical in allowing the full release and reuptake of serotonin and its benefits.
As Dr. Peterson says "pain matters." Make improving pain a matter of practice.