Coffee with Mimi: World peace begins at no slouching 

Published 6:56 am Saturday, May 19, 2018

Well, who knew? Oh, right, it was grandmamas and moms the world over. “Stand up straight.”

How many teenagers have rewarded this nagging with an Olympic eye roll? Slouching into the depths of the couch is the equivalent of “I’m so cool, way too cool to bother with mundane worldly pettiness,” such as the dishes, homework or taking out the garbage. An adult may just be permanently fixed in the position, mentally and physically.

Sure, standing up straight aligns the body advantageously, thus spreading the balance of all muscles, bones and joints evenly up and down, and to the feet. A nice line improves the drape of clothing. Walk out the door with your shoulders square and chin lined up at right angle to your spine and the world does look friendlier. Is it a imagination, or is there real science involved?

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In 2015, a group of scientists conducted a study to unearth the truth of the age old rule  on Grandmama’s list. Specifically, the group was curious about the effect of posture on stress. The topic may not interest kids, but could perk up a few grown ups.

The experiment involved 74 randomly selected individuals who were subsequently assigned to be either slouchers or straight-uppers. To ensure the continuous maintenance of the assigned position, the subjects’ backs were strapped in position with physiotherapy tape. There appeared to be confidence this was a legitimate practice in the whole exercise.

The results affirmed the hypothesis that posture does affect stress. However, I think the study should be more than filed away. It should be required reading for every citizen of this country.

The scientists charted the subjects who were strapped in the upright position used words which were assessed to show a higher self-esteem, a better mood and lower fear. The slouchers exhibited more negative emotions, used more first-person singular pronouns, sadness words and fewer positive emotion words.

The conclusion was, and I am paraphrasing: Good posture improves the ability, interest and apparent willingness, to pay attention to those around you. Bad posture shows a tendency to be selfish. Individuals who slumped over in the study were far more likely to be self-focused to the exclusion of others in interactions.  

In other words, Grandmama held the future of the world in her words when she nagged. She was actually ensuring the success of humanity when she stood up for standing up straight.

It’s not too late.

My step counting device will send a little reminder to me through a gentle vibration when I haven’t moved in an hour.  I can set this feature for different reminder intervals. If I am engrossed in a seated task, oblivious to passing time, I will feel a gentle nudge that it is time to get up and move around. The action generates few steps in the daily count, but encourages me to shake out the kinks and clear the cobwebs before getting back to it. 

My little step counter is very small. It is not as bulky as most watches or even many step counter devices. Mine is all black, so it goes with everything. For the more fashion-conscious, there are colored bands available.

Surely, in the interest of individual health and world peace, the little band could be retrofitted with a monitoring application to nudge the wearer when their posture is reaching the danger point on the selfish meter.

My step counter is synced to my cell phone. Each day, I can check to see how my life is measuring up against several goals I have set. Besides steps, I can study my sleep pattern or monitor my resting heart rate, among other health related targets.

What if there could be a record of minutes spent in slouchy behavior and a graph of that behavior over 24 hours, right there beside the graph of sleep? Along with the color-coded graph, there would be a discussion of the role good posture plays in personal health and well being. Tips for improving the behavior would be offered.

A cute, clever series of personalized bitmojis could be designed and embedded in the app to send inspiring and happy encouragements as the slouching behaviors are exhibited less and less often. Soon, the healthy behavior will be habit and the app will revert to a maintenance level which gives little nudges.

I’m certain I’ve hit on the perfect gift for all occasions. We could start with the basic black model, like Henry Ford. Look where that went. I would be willing to give one away for every one I sell. I already have a list of prospects for targeted marketing.

World peace could be at stake and I’m willing to do my part, just like Grandmama.