Why the best thing for your work could be…sitting up


Sure, slouching is bad for your back and neck—you knew that. Now a study suggests it may also affect how you feel about the very thing you’re working on.

The researchers found that people who slumped as they worked on a stressful task had more negative thoughts, fear, and low self-esteem than people who sat up straight.

This finding makes sense to me. It explains the deteriorating spiral that can take over when writing (or any thought-intensive task) isn’t going well. Obstacle -> slumping -> discouragement -> task feels harder -> more slumping -> and on it goes until you’re scrunched up in an unproductive ball of dark thoughts.

In my own experience, trying to change my thinking in the middle of a difficult project is easier said than done.  So could I focus on my posture as a way of coaching my mind?

Here’s what I’ve been doing since I read about the study:

  • When I catch myself slouching, sit up straighter.
  • When I notice my thoughts spiraling into this-is-impossible territory, sit up straighter.

I anticipated that this would feel extremely unnatural. But it’s a simple enough routine that I’ve been able to do it pretty consistently. It doesn’t even require that I stop working or get out of my chair.

It’s also slowing down my breathing, which is always a good thing.

I should mention that “sit up straighter” doesn’t mean stiffening my back, or locking my shoulders, or anything that rigid. It’s more a matter of letting my spine extend upward, Somatic-Learning-style.

Work seems to be going a little easier. My neck thanks me; over time, I bet my attitude will too.


  1. Janet, as always an excellent and inspiring piece. I will try to sit up straighter! Thank you.

  2. Janet Bailey says:

    @Kristin – Glad it inspired you!

  3. Beth Weiss says:

    Hey Janet, Great article… I teach this ALL THE TIME in my work to my patients. Best thing that works great for posture in any type of chair, good or bad, is the “Back Joy” seat insert that you can get at Bed Bath and Beyond….. I have had mine for 5 years now and it really helps keep your spine aligned in good posture with NO EFFORT at all…. Highly recommend it!!

  4. Janet Bailey says:

    @Beth – NO EFFORT sounds good to me—I’ll check it out. I love Bed Bath and Beyond.

  5. Gina Carr says:

    Love this suggestion. I almost always use a support pillow for my back so that it is easier to sit up straight. I’ll be even more cognizant of it now that I’ve read your article. Thanks!

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