Who doesn’t slouch over their desks nowadays? Whether you work in the office, work at home or work at all, slouching has taken over society — standing or sitting.

But as Axios reported, bad posture doesn’t just look bad. Bad posture impacts your physical health, but did you know that it can take a toll on your mental health, too? Here’s how — and what to do about it.

Does bad posture impact your mental health?

According to Axios, bad posture doesn’t just impact your physical health — it effects your mental health, too.

In a 2009 study, researchers found a correlation between posture and confidence. Researchers had participants write their best or worst qualities while sitting with their back straight and chest out, or a confident posture, or slouched forward, or a “doubtful” posture.

Researchers found that “the effect of the direction of thoughts (positive/negative) on self-related attitudes was significantly greater when participants wrote their thoughts in the confident than in the doubtful posture.” Ultimately, the participant’s posture “did have an impact on the confidence with which people held their thoughts.”

Additionally, a 2018 study examined the effect of posture on students’ performance on their math test. Researchers found students who excelled at math saw no difference in performance slouching or sitting up straight. But students who found math stressful “found the test more manageable,” per Axios, while sitting up straight.

What causes bad posture?

According to Harvard Health, poor posture often comes from just every day activities: working on the computer, hunching over in your desk chair, looking down at your phone or “slouching on a couch while watching TV.” Carrying heavy objects for multiple hours, like work equipment, groceries or heaving bags, can lead to bad posture.

According to Saloni Doshi, a physical therapist with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, each of these could cause you to stoop or hunch your shoulders forward.

“This overstretches and weakens the muscles in the back of your shoulders, and shortens the muscles in the front of your shoulders and in your chest. Gravity then pulls the muscles forward, because the muscles are too weak to pull them back up,” Doshi said.

Bad posture can also be caused by weakened core muscles in your back and abs. According to Harvard Health, “Those muscles are crucial to lifting your frame and keeping you upright.”

More severely, poor posture can be caused by “broken bones in your back.” Per Harvard Health, “People with brittle bones (osteoporosis) may experience compression fractures when the bones in the back (vertebrae) aren’t strong enough to support the load placed on them.”

Can you correct years of bad posture?

Per Harvard Health, it’s never too late to improve your bad posture. “It’s not as hard as you may think. Better posture is often just a matter of changing your activities and strengthening your muscles,” said Doshi.

But if you’ve had “a spinal cord injury or you’ve had surgery to fuse or remove bones in your back, there may be some limitations to your posture improvement,” per Harvard Health.

How to fix your posture

Can you fix hunchback posture?

Hunchback posture, medically known as kyphosis, often varies in severity. According to Healthline, there are four types of kyphosis:

  • Postural kyphosis: This is either caused by bad posture or “weaker bones and fractures,” per Healthline.
  • Congenital kyphosis: Developing at birth, this happens when a babies’ spine doesn’t develop correctly. This is typically corrected with surgery.
  • Nutritional or metabolic kyphosis: Per Healthline, “conditions that affect bone formation and density” can cause metabolic kyphosis.
  • Scheuermann’s kyphosis: This occurs when a spinal disc herniation, known as Schmorl’s nodes, form “alongside kyphosis.”

If you have severe kyphosis, you’ll likely need physical therapy. But if you have slight hunchback posture, there are a few exercises you can try, per Healthline:

  • Mirror image: Stand against a wall. Tuck in your chin slightly and bring your head over your shoulders, touching the wall. Roll your shoulders back and down, and stand against the wall for thirty seconds to one minute.
  • Head retraction: Lie down on the floor and pull your chin to the floor — like you’re trying to make a double chin. Hold for ten seconds, and do so five to ten times.
  • Superman: Lie on your stomach with your arms outstretched in front of your head. Look towards the floor as you left both arms and legs out and off the floor. Hold for three seconds and repeat 15 times.
  • Life extension: Stand up straight with your knees soft, chest upright and shoulders back and down. Lift your arms in a Y position, pointing your thumbs behind you. Hold for two to three breaths, release and repeat.

How do you fix slouching?

According to Healthline, improving slouching can involve just a few simple habit changes:

  • Stand up straight: Next time you’re standing, pay attention to your posture. Make sure that your shoulders are relaxed and slightly pulled back. Don’t lock your knees, keep your stomach tucked and your head neutral. If you have to stand in one place for a while, shift your weight from toes to heels or from side to side.
  • Sit properly: Keep your back straight and shoulders relaxed — don’t hunch or round your shoulders. Make sure that your chair height “allows you to keep your feet firmly planted on the floor.” Place your legs so your knees or either level or a little higher than your hips. Sit back in your chair, keep your head level and make sure your computer screen is at eye level.
  • Stay active: You don’t have to workout during the work day, but make sure to move around. Get up throughout the day, stretch or take a quick walk once an hour.

If you’re looking for active exercises to help improve your posture, Healthline recommends these:

  • Wall slide: Stand against a wall. Make sure that your back isn’t arched — keep your pelvis tilted. Keep the back of your hands pressed against the wall as you raise your hands straight above you. Slide your arms down to your shoulders, slightly lower than shoulder height, squeezing your mid-back muscles as you do so. Hold your position briefly before pushing your arms back up. Repeat ten to twelve times.
  • Child’s pose: If you’re looking to relieve tension on your spine, this is a great stretch. Sit on all fours on the floor, also known as “tabletop” in yoga. Shift your weight back, with your hips sinking down towards your feet. Slide your hands in front of you and place your forehead on the floor. Keep your arms extended.
  • Shoulder blade squeeze: According to Healthline, “This exercise can help improve your posture by stabilizing your shoulder and upper back muscles.” Simply stand tall with your arms by your sides, and pull your shoulders together like “you’re trying to get your shoulder blades to touch.” Hold for a beat before returning your shoulders to normal. Do ten repetitions.