Essential Habit #4: The Power of Posture

Habit #4 – The Power of Posture on Your Psychology
This article is in a series on the 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks to consciously systemise your days. It will revolutionise the way you live and boost your performance, even on days where you lack motivation. You will find the series at A Higher Branch Blog Page. 

Why is Posture important?

“If eyes are the windows to the soul, then posture is a window into your emotions.” Sam Makhoul

Posture is a habit. And if your posture is not optimal it will affect your thoughts, feelings and your health. It will affect all personal and business interactions because of how others perceive you. Your clients and customers read your posture. Your children mimic your posture and mimic your body language subconsciously. What kind of posture do you want them to have? A confident one or a defeated one?

The Science

For many year’s psychologists have known that there is a feedback loop between our physiology and our psychology. How we feel is reflected in our posture and our facial expression. In turn, our posture, how we move, and our facial expression impacts how we feel. If you are in a poor emotional state, your shoulders will drop, you will look down more often, you will slouch, you will walk around like you’re tired, and you will start to feel tired. You become caught in a negative loop where your emotions drive your posture and the habit of your posture then reinforces your emotions.

You are no match for your emotions, right? Or are you? In 2010 psychologists Amy Cuddy, Dana Carney and Andy Yap pioneered the research that demonstrated that you can reverse the way you feel by posture alone. This research merely reinforced what teachers such as Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra and Norman Cousins have been saying for years. And it works. Changing your posture will change the way you feel, especially if it is compounded with Habit#1 in our series.

BUT, and it’s a BIG BUT, how do you reverse the habit of poor posture? A habit is very tough to break. It is one thing for researchers to prove something but another to provide the solution. NONE of the research tells us HOW to reverse the habit of being yourself (because your posture becomes who you are). Power posing proposed by Amy Cuddy in her famous TED talk has since been discredited as pseudoscience because it is not a realistic permanent solution.

Change Your Posture in TWO steps.

This article aims to provide the solution by addressing the real issue; that posture is a habit that is reinforced by muscle memory. And therefore to change your posture permanently you need to change muscle memory in a two step process designed by A Higher Branch in our Conscious Living program.

Step 1

Just like method actors in Hollywood or Bollywood, you need to develop the habit of being self-conscious. You need to constantly be aware of how you are standing, walking or expressing your movements. This self-awareness helps you to be more mindful of the circumstances or situations that cue your body to behave in a certain way. This will give you an insight into how you feel in that moment. Are you in a meeting where you feel uncertain about your competence? Are you in a social setting where you feel shy and introverted? Notice how your body is reflecting that emotion. Are you hunching? Are you shallow breathing? Are you shrinking and hoping to be invisible? Tell yourself that you are not your thoughts or emotions. You are the essence witnessing how you feel. That’s who you really are. You don’t have to do anything to change your posture at this stage. Just noticing it is enough, because the real solution comes in step 2. (For more information on “breaking the habit of being yourself”, refer to the guided meditations by Dr Joe Dispenza, whose book by the same name is a prescriptive masterpiece in noticing your thoughts).

Step 2

Step 2 is not a quick fix. Nothing in life is a quick fix – just ask David Goggins. Anyone that tells you otherwise is often trying to sell you something, 

Step 2 is all about doing exercises that build a great posture over time. This is where strength training, yoga and Pilates come in. There is no doubt that all three methods impact how we feel. The combination of breathing and movement dissipates anxiety and relieves depression. It does this by changing our body chemistry; the pharmacy of our physical. In fact, the benefits of exercise have been proven to be more effective than both Xanax and Prozac. 

But one other consequence of all three modalities is that they improve posture by strengthening the core. So, it not only changes your biology but also your psychology through your physiology. Your body starts to stand more upright. Your muscles become more toned and support you in a way that is reassuring and balanced. You will look taller, and therefore feel and look more confident.

So, changing your physiology and the habit of your posture starts with exercise that strengthen the core and leads to an effortless posture. A good posture is NOT one that is forced. It is not in power posing or in a military-style stiff, upright way with head up, shoulders back. A good posture should never be tiring to maintain.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss exercises that strengthen the core and correct the posture effortlessly, but I will say this: Yoga and Pilates in particular strengthen the core, lengthen the spine, makes you feel open, light and effortless. My new friend and yogini, Rebecca Jarvis described the importance of this on the spine as follows:  

“Posture is the framework that allows for energy or life-force to flow through the body.  The spine has an innate intelligence and energy that is inhibited when we’re tense and contracted.  We need the spine to be lengthened, to create an optimal flow of energy, and to serve as an open channel for our breathing.”

Rebecca recommends the following sequence of yoga moves for office workers who are sitting all day. It is a sequence designed by Elena Bower. Click here.

My mobility coach and good friend, Phong Thach, put it this way: “your best posture is in your next movement”. In other words, we need to keep moving. Sitting all day is the enemy of a good posture, no matter how upright you sit. 

As a strength trainer he recommends you take a few minutes twice a day to do exercises such as push-ups, lunges and holding the plank – all simple, can be done anywhere and designed to strengthen the core. And if you make it to the gym, he also recommends pull ups and anything that works the back muscles.  You need to train your core and your back muscles to a point where it is built into your muscle memory. 

The habit of a good posture is too important to ignore because it impacts so much of your psychology. And this is why it is in the top 5 habits of our Conscious Living series.

4 Essential Daily Rituals #2: Movement

This is part of a series of articles relating to the 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks that systemise your life. Remember what I said in earlier articles and I emphasize in my keynotes, “Don’t rely on motivation alone. Rely on repetition and automation. Not just in your personal life but also in business.” A well drilled team will always outperform a motivated one.

In my last article I shared with you the most important daily ritual of all – Journaling. If you have not read it, here is the link: Journaling Essentials.  Now I will share with you the second most important ritual you need to do before journaling, without compromise every morning and early evening: Movement. I never skip exercise whether I am in my usual routine, traveling on business or holidays, sleep deprived and tired, working long hours, or whatever my condition. I say this because a lot of us make excuses to abandon a ritual. Don’t blame yourself too much. We are hard wired to crave food and comfort. Recognise this and let it be your cue to fight the urge for comfort and go for growth instead. Let it be your trigger for tenacity.

All the research shows that delayed gratification is the key to success in all areas of life. You study hard, you graduate. You work hard, you outperform the competition and make more money. You save and invest your money, so you can afford to have more freedom later in life. You put in the effort in your relationships, you have more intimacy and build bonds for life. You exercise, you have better health and energy as you get older. You stretch, you get more flexible and supple. You eat live unprocessed food, you build healthier cells in your entire body including your eyes and skin. You learn new things and meet new people, you get a sharper mind as you grow older and bolder. Rarely does anything good in life come easily. You need to put in conscious effort but that makes it all the sweeter.

In future articles I will be sharing 5 habits and 6 life-hacks that will make it easier to implement the 4 daily rituals. For now let’s get onto the next essential daily ritual.

Movement – AM and PM

Before you perform the first mentioned ritual (journaling), it is absolutely critical to start your day with movement. Anything from a 4 minute Tabata routine to a 30-60 minute jog/cycle/swim or whatever gets you puffing and sweating. Exercise is best in the morning when your cortisol levels are highest; but not too early in the morning. There are a lot of ‘experts’ who preach early morning exercise (before sunrise) but the science shows that this is not the most optimal time. The optimal time starts at sunrise and peaks around 7-8am. Exercise later in the day should be milder as the cortisol curve tapers off for rest and sleep.

What Type of Moving?

Moving, just like going hungry, is natural. You need to listen to your body every morning and adapt the length and intensity to suit. But there is never any excuse not to do anything. Even if I am unwell I will still muster the effort to do a brisk walk for 15-30 mins and I am always surprised by how much it lifts my mood and energy.

The best form of exercise is one that you enjoy. Think competitive sport, dancing and training with friends. The second best and most natural is walking, jogging or running. Generally, the shorter the time you have to exercise the higher the intensity should be. When I don’t have much time I do at the very minimum a 10-minute Tabata routine. My usual ritual is however to do a 30-minute jog followed by a cold shower. On weekends I might do a 60 to 90 minute hike or trail run. Or I might do a high intensity session with friends at F45. I am not sharing my routine for you to copy but to demonstrate that you can go hard or you can go slow but the main thing is to go and do whatever suits you. You may be a swimmer or a cyclist or a heavy lifter. Or love yoga or pilates. But never ever skip moving in the morning.

Why is exercise such an important morning ritual?

We live in a world where people rarely sleep straight through the night. Our mind is racing as soon as we wake. We can be confrontational and edgy in the morning and our energy crashes and burns around mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon. Exercise neutralises these abnormal afflictions.

Most people think that exercise is for the body. Its biggest impact however is on the mind. Science tells us that when you are in motion, your mind is on fire! All parts of the brain are active. This kick-starts your cognitive engine in the morning and keeps you mentally sharp throughout the day; which means you will perform tasks faster and you will get more done in less time. And that means you can spend more time with your partner, family and friends.  

Exercise also impacts your emotions in a profound way because it changes your body chemistry. It replaces adrenalin and cortisol (fight or flight) with dopamine and serotonin (inspiration and calm). These are the neurotransmitters you should be running on all day and it all starts with morning exercise. Exercise also kickstarts your metabolism and stimulates your lymphatic system (for immunity). Especially when you exercise in the sunshine without wearing sunglasses. Exercising in morning sunshine also promotes a deeper and longer sleep that same night. In fact, exercise in conjunction with sunshine and sleep has been proven to be more potent than Prozac as an antidepressant. (Sleep is the ultimate superpower for your overall health. Read the definitive guide to sleep here: How to Get the Best Sleep)

And why is it important to exercise before the three other daily rituals?

If you try to journal on waking without first moving you will have trouble calming the mind. Your mind is no match for adrenalin and cortisol. You will be edgy. You cannot sit still let alone think straight. We are wired to hunt and gather on waking, so we need to respect this natural rhythm and get moving. We need to also respect this cycle by eating low carb meals in the morning (if anything at all), moderate amounts of carbs during the day, think substantial salads and higher amounts of carbs as the last meal of the day. Think, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli (NOT pasta, pizza and bread). Carb cycling in this way promotes healthy cortisol levels.

After you move in the morning, you will find your body gets calmer and your mind clearer and these two qualities are the perfect prerequisites for journaling and the other morning rituals.  

Can some exercise be doing you more harm than good? Find out by clicking here.

The Power of WHEN

WHY ignites motivation.
WHAT clarifies outcomes.
HOW is the process.
but
WHEN is your point of difference!

There is no doubt that we should all start at WHY. WHY sparks the motivation for change that shapes your beliefs and defines your identity, which is critical for behavioural change. But in my opinion, if you do not get the WHEN right, the WHY along with your motivation will disappear behind a sea of inevitable set-backs, energy dips, failures, rejections, hurts and disappointments.

Timing is everything.

If you get your timing wrong you are more likely to fail or get rejected; whether it is the time of day you wake, eat, sleep, exercise, work, and even initiate sex with your partner. Timing is critical. You may think you are not good at something, when in fact you just did it at the wrong time of day that is not aligned with your optimal chrono-type.

Munich University pioneered the research into discovering your chrono-type with a simple quiz but if you really think about it, you would know intuitively whether you are a morning person or a night owl. The research shows that approximately 30% of people are ‘morning’ types, 30% are ‘night owls’ and 40% are in-between. Most modern work schedules favour the morning types. I know some people who have gone into business for themselves purely so they can be in control of when they eat, sleep and work. Others have asked their boss if they can work different hours that favour their chrono-type. If you don’t have the privilege of either, don’t despair. Read on….

8 Tips to Get Your timing right?

Using the Higher Branch framework, consider how you can get your timing right in the following 8 AREAS of life. These tips can make a huge difference to your energy, motivation and performance.

Health

There are three branches to your physical health. Nutrition, sleep and movement (exercise). Sleep is by far the most important factor for your cognitive performance, emotional happiness, immunity and longevity.

If you are a night owl, going to bed early may cause you to slip into self-induced insomnia as you lie awake trying to get to sleep before you are ready. You start developing a negative association with your bed and it’s a spiral into anxiety from there that causes more insomnia. If your optimal time to go to bed is 11pm and wake at 7am then stick to that and be true to your chrono-type. If you prefer to sleep at 9pm and wake at 5am then go with that.

When it comes to eating, typically morning people can’t survive without breakfast, while night owls prefer to snack at night and fast till midday the next day. Some can have one or two meals per day, others are primed for grazing throughout the day. For some, exercise first thing boosts their energy level, for others midday or late afternoon is the best time.

Don’t try and be something you are not. You need to listen to your body. And if you cannot figure out what your body is telling you then maybe it is time to have an Ayurvedic or a genetic consultation with a peak performance coach. We recommend Mark Bunn, Alessandra Edwards and Anthia Koullouros. 

Love & Intimacy

Couples can sometimes think they have relationships ‘problems’ simply because they have their timing all wrong. For example, if you try to initiate sex with your partner late at night and they are a morning person, then you are setting yourself up for rejection. So, it is important to get your timing right. How do you do that? Start with sleep. In a previous article The Sex/Sleep Connection I talked about how important sleep is to a relationship.

Family

If you are a morning person, then the best time to spend with your children is in the morning. Driving them to school is a great way to do that. Otherwise, I know some parents who wake early and go jogging or swimming with their children. If they are too young, then a playground is an awesome way to start the day. If you are a night person, then flip that around and do those things later in the day. Pick them up from school. Read to them at night. Play board games. Please don’t watch TV or have any screen time at night with your children. Artificial light at night will mess up their sleep and yours whether you are a morning person or a night person. More on the importance of your circadian rhythm in the next article.

Work

If you are a morning person you need to do your most important work in the first 90 minutes after you start work. Why only 90 mins? Research shows that after 90 minutes, your attention span and focus deteriorate, and you need a 15 min break outside in sunlight to reset. Why the first 90 mins? For a morning person, the first 90 minutes at work is the most productive. This should never be spent checking email! Or in meetings, unless the meeting is for brainstorming or decision making. The converse is true for a night person. You need to ease into the day and do your best work later in the day when your brain comes alive.

Friendships

Socialising is a critical element to our wellbeing. In fact, all the research shows that the longest living humans in the blue zones of the world all have very strong social networks that keep them happy and mentally sharp. Friendships help us have fun and bring laughter to our life. BUT only when you socialise at the right time. If you are a night person then going out at night to the footy or a bar or restaurant brings the best out of you. You will be a lot more fun and energetic. If you are a morning person, then perhaps you should avoid going out at night and choose a morning cycle and coffee or a long lunch on weekends. Timing can be the difference between being perceived as fun or boring.

Learning

At A Higher Branch we consider learning to be an essential element for growth. Our whole mission is built around sharing actionable knowledge with our community. Learning is not just about attending seminars about your subject-matter expertise. But more importantly about your personal life. Your health, how to be a better partner, friend or parent and all the 8 areas of life. And learning is no different to working. You should read, listen or watch when you are most alert. Again, this leads back to whether you identify yourself as a morning person, a night person or an in-between. The best ways to learn on the fly is during your daily commute. Some call it ‘Traffic University’. By far the most effective exponential way to learn is face-to-face at seminars and events with other like-minded people.

Wealth

Your appetite for risk varies according to the time of day. If you are a morning person, then the worst time for you to make investment decisions is later in the day when you are more emotional and prone to impulsiveness. The converse is true for night owls. The morning is your worst time to make investment or business decisions.

Charity

Helping others, whether it is the new person at work or a friend that needs someone to listen to is best when you are emotionally solid. Otherwise you are going to come across as insincere or nonchalant. It is amazing how your chrono-type can influence the way you help others. I know timing for helping others may be difficult but if you do have the choice, always choose the time of day when you are most empathetic and patient. Listening requires both.

​I hope you enjoyed this article. It is shared with care and the utmost of respect for your time.

In the next article we will be discussing the most important success factor for just about every component of your life. SLEEP. The absolute latest research reveals some stunning truths about the importance of sleep and the TWO lifestyle changes that will take away all the anxiety that can sometimes be associated with sleep.

Benefits of Walking Barefoot

Have you noticed how children rip off their shoes and socks whenever they can? That’s because they instinctively know the benefits of walking barefoot, especially on the natural surfaces such as grass. This practice is known as ‘earthing’ or ‘grounding’ and studies now show that standing barefoot on earth improves your health as it channels the free radicals and electric charges that we carry with us, back into the Earth. It is as important as eating foods high in anti-oxidants! This is because the Earth carries a strong negative charge and anything above the ground such as air or insulated materials such as rubber, carries a positive charge.

As our nervous system works on electrical impulses, our heart beats with an electrical charge and we are constantly surrounded by electrical radiation from technology, it is necessary to neutralise our electric charge by ‘plugging’ ourselves into the earth. Grounding is important for removing negative radiation and electric waste from our bodies, but it also has the following health benefits:

  • Greater balance
  • Greater strength
  • Healthier feet
  • Greater circulation
  • Better posture
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Calms nervous system

If you’re interested in knowing more about other ancient wisdom secret life-hacks then you absolutely need to join us at Upgrade Our Life, 2019, where you will hear from internationally acclaimed speakers such as Mark Bunn and 9 other leading global experts about every aspect of your life, including your health. To say that your life will pivot after attending this event is an understatement. You will experience an outright revolution of transformation. For more information, click here.

If you have not yet downloaded your FREE copy of the eBook, GUIDE TO GREATNESSplease do so here. If you would like to provide the author, Sam Makhoul, with a book review, please email your comments to Petrushka.Thach@AHigherBranch.com. You could win two tickets to Upgrade Your Life valued at $2990.

Sex, Lies & Fasting

Should we fast from sex and other pleasures? Before I get into the science of why we should, I want to make one observation about the lies we have been fed by most sexperts who peddle the idea that if you are not having sex with your partner 2-5 times per week then there must be something wrong with the relationship. Trashy magazines thrive on this message as much as personal trainers thrive on the message you need to work out in one-hour intervals. Both are simply NOT true. Both create a state of fear and guilt.

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