Triggers: Because Everyone Needs Their Memory Jogged Once in a While

How to ensure your stretching and exercises happen, without having to think about it much. 

So many conditions require ongoing efforts to manage them, and keep them from progressing to a point where one needs help. Why?

Just as we are what we eat, our physical bodies reflect what we habitually do. Working posture, Computer posture—especially laptop posture (this is also often called upper crossed syndrome)—has predictable effects on the human body. Seeing your friendly San Mateo Chiropractor and active release technique provider (that’s me!) can help, but once you are feeling better and we are done with our treatment plan, I know you would like it to not be an issue again. A key factor in this will be how consistently a patient will do self-care to maintain posture and flexibility.

That’s where triggers come in. One of our most fundamental triggers is pain. Pain serves a very important function for us humans. It gets us to take action! Most people are very diligent in working to avoid pain. A problem arises when people recover from the painful crisis and the decreasing pain becomes a weaker and less consistent trigger, or motivator for self-care.

A different tactic is needed. Human nature must be taken into consideration when pursuing the goal of being pain free. Pain should not be the only trigger, but simply the default trigger. This idea comes from the book “Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be” by Marshall Goldsmith as well as an article by B.J. Fogg about how to change habits. The essential idea is to link (in this case say a postural exercise or stretch) a habit to a particular activity that you engage in on a regular basis. Examples of these activities would be anything from sitting in your car at a red light to completing a phone call to taking out the garbage. It is important that they happen with enough frequency that they will do some good. 

Tying or associating these events to particular exercises is the trick.  An example of this would be the scapular setting exercise below. This is a great posture reset and can, with a small amount of practice, be performed while waiting at a red light. Alternatively, you can do standing child’s pose after you hang up from a phone call or send a document to the printer. The hitchhiker could be performed after returning from lunch or grabbing a cup of coffee.   The triggering event is only important to the extent that it occurs often enough to provide beneficial timing of the stretch. 

A famous doctor, Dr. Seuss that is, said that “life’s a great balancing act”—the trick here is to work these activities into your life without having them take over your life. If we tie them to a handful of our regular activities, we can get them off the “things I need to remember to do list” and on to the “things I just automatically do” list. If you sit (and even stand for that matter) behind a computer for a good part of the day, try these two moves.

Standing Childs Pose

Scapular Set

Seated Hitchiker

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