Who knew posture had so much to do with doing well in school? We always think of an over-concern with something as seemingly unimportant as posture as secretly totally unhelpful and only pushed by cartoonishly tyrannical principals and spinsterish and bitter teachers (I learned everything I know from The Simpsons). But — turns out you’re doing yourself a favor if you forgo your usual study position amongst throw pillows or upside down in a chair (I don’t know how you usually study, I’m doing my best), and instead, seating yourself in a straight-backed chair.
Some research has shown that if you slump your shoulders and hunch your back, you’ll constrict 30% of the oxygen flow to your brain (and guys, oxygen is real important). What’s more, you’ll also hamper the functioning of the left side of your brain, the side that processes new material.
You don’t usually consciously think of posture, and oftentimes you’ll slip into what feels like a more comfortable position without even realizing it. But it’s worth your while to straighten your back, so try and pay attention. A great way to start is to make your workspace as “posture-friendly”, if you will, as you can. Find ways to keep reminding yourself to study in an upright position: avoid pillows and blankets (let’s be real, studying in bed is a legend); sit in a straight chair that gives you good leg room, and if you’re working at a computer, make sure it’s positioned right in front of you. I’m doing it right now.
Here’re some more tips to help you with your posture:
Light – Don’t underestimate the importance of having enough light. It’s easy to lose track and then find yourself accidentally squinting at your work. Keep a nice lamp on hand, with soft light that won’t cause eye fatigue. The NY Times has more good advice, here.
Eye breaks – Give your eyes a break every now and then. Try and readjust and refocus your eyes so they get some relief from focusing only on things right in front of them. One trick is to focus on an object at a distance of 20 feet every 30 minutes or so.
Study breaks – Sometimes, when you take a break from studying, you just sort of collapse where you sit instead of moving around a bit, which is important and will keep you from getting too tired to work. Set alarms to remind yourself to get up and walk or stretch a few muscles after every hour or so. This will improve your blood flow and the balance in your body — which will help you maintain the all-important posture.
Take the edge off by dividing your attention – Do something that helps you relax while you study. Talk to a friend, or listen to music. This will keep you happy and you’ll be using different parts of your brain and muscles.
A change of scenery is nothing to sneeze at – If you can, get up and move around, switching rooms (or go bigger—leave the house, and go to the park), but don’t forget all the posture-maintaining tips we talked about.
Exercise – This is kind of an obvious one — exercise is, of course, closely related to good posture. Exercise will make you stronger, so you’ll be more able to sit up straight and not get tired or achy. Also, it’ll help you decompress and make stress levels more manageable, which will, of course, help you learn better and faster.
Next time you find yourself slouching, nip it in the bud. Once you develop the habit, you’ll find that you’re more comfortable sitting up straight than you are hunched over. Know what else’ll help? Tips to help you focus and some exercises for anxiety that’ll help you breathe better and sit straighter.