Bad Posture Has An Unexpected Effect On Your Memory

Hunching your shoulders and arching your back over your desk as you type away at your computer can place added pressure on your hips, neck, and lower back. Not only is this a recipe for discomfort, but poor posture can also impact our physical health in other ways, including increasing one's risk of heartburn, incontinence, or constipation (via Harvard Health Publishing). That's not all, though. Bad posture may also influence the types of memories we tend to recall most.

In a 2017 study published in Biofeedback, researchers examined the relationship between posture and recall of positive or negative memories. Positive memories were identified as those related to emotions of empowerment or optimism. Negative memories involved emotions of helplessness, hopelessness, or defeat. Over 200 college students were instructed to sit in either a slouched or upright position while conjuring up negative memories followed by positive memories before switching positions and repeating the memory recall exercise.

We may be more prone to negative memory recall when slouching

While the study findings showed that positive memories came more easily to participants when seated upright, 86% of students said that negative memories were more readily accessible when sitting slouched over. As such, a person who spends the majority of their day slumped over may be more likely to focus on negative memories. The researchers therefore emphasized the importance of mental health professionals promoting awareness around proper posture to support patients in minimizing depression symptoms.

Experts at Montare Behavioral Health, who were not involved with the study, offer some potential insight into these findings, explaining that a hunched-over position traditionally embodies a state of defeat. That same energy may then permeate our thoughts, prompting negative emotions and unpleasant memories to surface. Oppositely, standing erect in a Wonder Woman-like power pose is often seen in yoga practices to increase a person's feelings of confidence and inner strength.

Maintaining proper posture may boost positive memories

Bad posture affects people around the world. In a 2020 study published in iScience, over 65% of a total of 595,057 kids in China who underwent posture screenings were found to have poor posture. As previously mentioned, maintaining proper posture may help reduce symptoms of depression and allow us to experience more positive memories (via Biofeedback). Even if you spend most of your day seated, there are tips you can implement to keep your body aligned and upright.

When sitting in an office chair, ensure that it's set at a height that allows both feet to sit flat on the ground, advises the Mayo Clinic. The chair shouldn't be so low that your knees are positioned higher than your hips. Leave a little space between the front of your chair and the backs of your knees. Next, make sure your back is supported by either the chair itself or by placing a lumbar pillow against your lower back. You'll want to keep your computer screen at eye level, relax your shoulders, and align your head and neck over the center of your body. When using the keyboard, keep your arms parallel to the floor.