Whatever we do for a living, these days most of us are stuck using a computer for a lot of the time. And in many ways this can be harmful to our health. Sitting in a sedentary position peering at a screen is really NOT what the human body was designed to do.
So it’s important to try and rectify this as much as possible.
Here are 5 easy ways you can make the time you spend at your desk a little healthier.
1. Stand up
Raise your computer keyboard up by placing it on a crate or box (or getting a modified desk), and stand up for a portion of your day instead of sitting down the whole time. This way you’re avoiding sitting in the same cramped position for so long.
Standing up at your desk has been shown to help reduce back pain, increase productivity, and even improve your mood. Considering the amount of people who experience stress at work, this is very good news.
You’re also giving yourself a sneaky opportunity to exercise. You see, if you’re standing at your desk rather than sitting, you’re more likely to be able to move around a bit as you work.
For instance, you could do a few squats or lunges every now and then, while you’re waiting for a file to download for instance. You could even do a little dance while you’re waiting for a slow page to load!
It feels good to be moving around rather than sitting impatiently drumming fingernails on the desk. And the very act of standing means that you’re strengthening your legs.
2. Look away
Years ago I was working in an office with a group of planners and designers who spent their day doing very close-up work. All of them wore glasses apart from one woman who had perfect eyesight. She told me her secret – every now and then she would simply look away from her work and gaze out of the window at something in the distance – for example a tree, or a chimney top. She would do this for at least a couple of minutes every hour, giving her eyes a chance to rest from all that close-up work.
Try it – you’ll be amazed at how comforting it feels to the eyes. It helps if you position your computer so that it’s facing a window – this makes it easier to look up occasionally and re-focus your eyes. This simple practice alone can really save your eyesight from diminishing over time.
Here are some more eye exercises that you can do to improve your vision naturally: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cZN3ESTzOI
3. Check in and re-adjust
Check in with your body every once in a while and take the opportunity to make sure you’re breathing properly. Re-adjust your posture if necessary, in case any tension has started to creep in. Uncross your legs and put your feet flat on the floor.
Check your chair height and make sure it’s right for you – too high can lead to slumping, and too low may place excessive pressure on your wrists. Breathe deeply into your abdomen area and breathe out any stress. Roll your shoulders back and gently circle your neck.
4. Lights out
Are you guilty of working away into the wee small hours? Many people are – especially busy working mums who grab those extra few hours once the kids are in bed. But burning the midnight oil around the computer can play havoc with your health – especially your sleeping patterns.
Computers, cell phones and other screens emit a blue light that can affect our circadian rhythms and fool our bodies into thinking it is daytime – when actually we should be preparing to rest. This can leave us tossing and turning for hours when we finally do get to bed.
Of course, the best solution is to switch off all your screens (including cell phones and TVs) several hours before going to bed, and settle down to read a good old fashioned book.
But if you MUST get that last-minute report finished then you’ll be glad to hear that there are other solutions.
Special protective glasses are now widely available. There are many blue-light blocking glasses around these days, and some are pretty cool looking. You can also upload some software onto your computer and phone which removes the blue light.
5. Unplug your laptop
Despite the name, your laptop really shouldn’t be anywhere near your lap, according to studies such as this. Latest research is finding that exposure to EMFs (Electro Magnetic Frequencies) may affect fertility and increase cancer risk.
EMFs are higher when your laptop is plugged in and charging, so charge it up beforehand then unplug it while you use it, to reduce exposure. If you suspect you may be electrosensitive, there are other solutions you can look into, such as protective fabrics and ‘Calmspace’ EMF defence.
We spend a lot of time at work, so it’s important to create the healthiest environment possible for yourself. Just a few simple changes can make all the difference in the long run.
Lisa Murphy is a counsellor and hypnotherapist based in Glasgow who specialises in anxiety, anger management, and weight loss.