How Bad Posture Affects Your Mood & Brain Function (and How to Easily Improve It)


By Dr. Josh Axe |

Thanks in no small part to a reliance on and addiction to technology, a sedentary lifestyle has become the norm. As a result, good posture has never been more important, but unfortunately, our obsession with our smartphones has made many of us develop forward head posture.

Why is this bad? Every time we lean forward 60 degrees, the stress on our necks is increased by approximately 60 pounds. In fact, every time you move your neck forward an inch, an extra 10 pounds of weight is added to your neck. As a result, forward head posture leads to chronic pain, numbness in the arms and hands, improper breathing, and pinched nerves. (1)

Related Article: Quick and Easy Asana Yoga Stretch for Poor Posture

That’s not all. It turns out, forward head posture doesn’t just affect us physically — it affects our mood as well. Thanks in no small part to our smart phone addiction, aka nomophobia, most of us are constantly putting undue strain on our necks and spinal cords, which has adverse effects on our emotions. Amy Cuddy, a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of the forthcoming book “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges,” and her college, Harvard’s Maarten W. Bos, have dubbed this phenomenon iPosture, or iHunch. (2)

How Forward Head Posture Affects Mood and Brain Function

That’s right: Not only do asthma and heart disease begin in your neck, but so does your brain health. For instance, posture has an impact on feelings of stress, mood, memory and even behavior.

A 2010 study conducted in Brazil examined posture and body image in people with major depressive disorder. Over 10 weeks, 34 participants with depression and 37 healthy volunteers had their posture assessed. Researchers found that patients’ posture changed, including instances of forward head posture, during episodes of depression, and there was a “mild dissatisfaction with body image.” (3)

Further, the Department of Clinical Psychology at the University of Hildesheim in Germany gathered 30 depressed inpatients to “investigate the effects of sitting posture on the tendency of depressed individuals to recall a higher proportion of negative self-referent material.” The findings showed that posture can affect memory.

Related Article: How Improving Your Diet and Posture Can Stop Your Tension Headaches

After being randomly assigned to sit in a slouched or upright position, the people who sat upright showed no bias in word recall while those who slumped recalled mostly negative words. (4)

In addition, poor posture has been shown to affect stress response. In 2015, Health Psychology: The Official Journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association published the results of a randomized trial on how posture affects stress responses. Seventy-four participants were randomly assigned to either upright or slumped seated posture. For the experiment, participants’ backs were strapped to hold the assigned posture.

The “upright participants reported higher self-esteem, more arousal, better mood, and lower fear, compared to slumped participants.” In addition, those sitting in a slumped position “used more negative emotion words, first-person singular pronouns, affective process words, sadness words, and fewer positive emotion words and total words during the speech.” (5)

Researchers concluded that good posture in the face of stress maintains self-esteem, improves mood, increases rate of speech and reduces self-focus. Meanwhile, poor posture actually resulted in more stress, potentially leading to chronic stress.

Posture even seems to influence behavior. A study in Japan worked to correct elementary students’ posture, focusing on all four major components of posture: feet, buttocks, back and the entire body. After practicing and promoting good posture in class, not only did posture increase roughly 20 percent to 90 percent in students, but students’ classroom performance improved as well. (6)

A lot of the poor posture out there, whether it’s slumping or forward head posture, is the result of the devices we use. From computers to tablets to smartphones, they all require a different angle to utilize, all of which throw our posture off. And it turns out, the size of device matters — but it’s not what you may think. Instead of larger devices causing more problems, the opposite seems to be true. That’s because the smaller the device, the more we must move our heads or necks forward.

Cuddy and Bos also conducted their own preliminary research on iHunch in their study, “iPosture: The Size of Electronic Consumer Devices Affects our Behavior.” Using an iPod Touch, iPad, MacBook Pro and an iMac, participants were assigned one of the devices. Cuddy and Bos found, as they hypothesized, that those working on smaller devices behaved more submissively, while those who used larger devices were more assertive. (7)

How to Improve Posture

The good news is there are many steps you can take to correct your slumping or forward head posture. For instance, you can try Egoscue, a a postural therapy designed to eliminate chronic pain without drugs or surgery. It’s a great way to improve posture, which can also relieve tension headaches as an added bonus. Chiropractic adjustments can also help relieve joint pain and promote better posture.

Related Article: Easy and Effective Exercises That Will Improve Your Posture (Video)

Of course, you can always incorporate posture exercises to correct that pesky forward head posture and improve your mood and mental health. These include:

  • arm circles
  • arm closes
  • cats and dogs
  • lateral raises (straight and bent)
  • rows
  • pull-ups

Final Thoughts on Slumped and Forward Head Posture

  • Forward head posture leads to chronic pain, numbness in the arms and hands, improper breathing, and pinched nerves. But that’s not all. It can also affect our mood.
  • Poor posture also has been shown to affect depression, memory, stress response, self-esteem, body image, and even brain function and behavior.
  • You can improve posture through Egoscue, chiropractic adjustments, and posture exercises like arm circles, cats and dogs, lateral raises, rows, and pull-ups.

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  1.' Anin Mahya says:

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  2.' James Kayeja says:

    Conscious Life news ..
    Bad posture when you use the office laptop or desk top .. Conscious news is not doing a gossip column when they offer very useful tips when we sleep or when we get engrossed inside the workplace performing out our tedious tasks .. Today I see they are onto a posture when you are doing a task on a computer .. I love this notification on posture .. I would love it more and more if they also notified us of the sleep postures .. They seem to bother me especially and bother all other forty something in years .. I have suffered and now I see this notification from conscious life news and I see a way of urging all of us to take heed .. This is not propaganda .. This is not gossip .. This is a little help we need from time to time .. Especially a guy such as myself who has literally cured all my ailments on my own .. No doctors or no conventional cell killing medicine from super drug it Tesco pharmacy .. By the way at Tesco especially in Reading Oxford road big Tesco Pharmacy .. There is a very unarguable and un agreeable Asian lady in charge who stands against reason .. She would never let you have counter strong medicine when we are allowed to get this .. I say this because Tesco puts a lady like this one who treats Tesco pharmacy like her little corner shop .. It’s a disgrace and uncivil for her to refuse people to buy harmless medicine from the Tesco pharmacy counter at oxford road near just eat or opposite or by the corner of just eat .. It is a disgrace for that young disagreeable lady to treat Tesco like her corner shop .. But believe it or not this is the world we live in .. We have pushy .. Bossy .. Disagreeable individuals .. All of which would explain the greedy and inhuman behaviour we find in all areas .. This means really we are indeed not perfect .. Especially those who see themselves being and living in a comfort zone at Oxford road Reading. West Berkshire ….
    I would love to see people performing their duties as humans .. As real compassionate humans .. I do this all the time in my work place .. I show people who come down for this issue or that issue to relax and chill .. To compose themselves .. Not to be emotional but to remain calm when do meet the ones who would help out in their cases .. So .. All this said .. I find it a pleasure to accept my flaws .. Meaning .. I am only human .. And we are only human all of us on the planet surface .. Have a clear mind when you sit about performing your duties on the computer ..??? .. Thanks for sharing .. Thanks for allowing my comment today .. I am much obliged … Thanks .. James Kayeja ….

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