To keep our bodies functioning at their best, we tone, stretch and strengthen our muscles through a variety of physical exercises. Plus, we have all kinds of daily habits in place (tooth brushing, eating healthy, drinking water, cleansing breaths, face washing, body moisturizing etc) to keep our various body parts healthy.
Yet we so often neglect the one body part that allows us to do all these things in the first place—our eyes. They need some loving! Especially in today’s modern world where many of us are staring at screens for much of our days.
As a Health Coach you’ll also be spending quite a bit of time in front of your screen be it a desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone—emailing clients, updating your website, researching health stuff, engaging with your peers on social media and reading HCI’s awesome blog etc.
Too much screen-time can cause dry, gritty eyes and sometimes burning or stinging eyes, blurred vision, headaches, and back and neck pain.
There’s actually a name for this—Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)—which is where you’ll want to head to grab eye drops but before you do, check out this list of habit changing tips so you’re not just reaching for that ‘band aid’.
So much of what we teach at HCI is around habit change. And when it comes to taking care of your eyes—especially in our modern world where much of our work depends on screen time—it’s all about changing old habits and implementing new ones.
So we’ve compiled 6 tips to help you change your habits around computer eye “hygiene” so your eyes can feel moist like fresh seaweed and not dry like a two-day old gluten-rich bagel.
But before you ream them, make sure you have these 3 basic things in place first or your new healthy habits won’t work as well.
- Go for quality screens
If your computer is so old that the screen looks green and the letters are so faded and fuzzy you have to squint to make them out, it’s time to get a new computer. Think of it as an investment in your eye health.
Make sure your screen is not too dull and not too bright. At both extremes your eyes have to work harder to make up for the difference in light. So try to create the right balance of brightness and dimness for your eyes.
Also, older computers (even a few years old) often have too little contrast or too much glare, which can strain your eyes. The higher the resolution of the screen, the clearer, crisper and sharper the text, which is way better for your eyes.
(The newer Apple computers have what they call Retina Display, which means the monitors have an extremely high resolution and pixel density making it so easy on your eyes, you’ll forget you’re looking at a screen, it’s that comfortable.)
- Get great lighting
When using a computer, make sure you have good lighting especially if there isn’t much natural light. Too much natural light can also cause glare so find a balance.
Working in a room with fluorescent lighting is the worst for your eyes so switch that off, if you can, and get a desk lamp. An LED lamp is better for the environment and better for your eyes. And you’ll be amazed at its brightness.
- Air quality matters
If you’re working on your computer in an air-conditioned or heated room you’re guaranteed to dry out and aggravate your eyes. Try turning down the heat and wearing more layers or turning down the air con and using a fan instead.
Another way to moisten dry air is to get yourself a humidifier, which does what its name implies, which is up the humidity (moisture) in a room and slow the evaporation of your tears. You can get cute little humidifiers that come in all shapes, sizes and colors that you can place right near you on your desk.
Once you’ve got the basics sorted out, check out our 6 habit changing tips to *heart* your eyes:
- Make screen-time work for you
If your computer screen (especially if it’s a desktop) is positioned directly at eye level, you’ll notice that you keep your eyes wide open most of the time. This dries them out. Instead, lower your screen so the center of your screen is about 10 degrees lower than your line of sight.
This makes your eyes work less and stay moist simply because you won’t be keeping them wide open the whole time. Experiment both ways with this and see for yourself if this tip makes a difference for you.
- Blink, blink, blink
When you’re looking at a computer screen, you blink a lot less. Period. This is the number one reason for dry, sore eyes because the less you blink, the less lubricated your eyes are. We typically blink about 18 times a minute but when we’re staring at a computer screen we blink about one-fourth as often. So get in the habit of blinking. We can’t stress this enough.
- Stay hydrated even if you’re not thirsty
Your eye tissues are made up mostly of water. The bottom line is if you are dehydrated, your eyes are going to be dehydrated. So before you reach for eye drops, reach for water. Keep a big water bottle next to your desk that you refill as needed and drink a big gulp every half hour to stay hydrated.
- Your eyes need exercise too
When you’re focused on a computer screen, your eye muscles are not getting the exercise they need because all you’re doing is looking ahead of you and not utilizing the eye muscles much. This causes ‘focus fatigue’ and tired, sore eyes.
Eye docs have come up with something for computer users that they call the 20-20-20 rule. This means that every 20 minutes, you look away from your screen at a distant object about 20 feet away, for about 20 seconds. And don’t forget to blink, blink, blink. Try it. This one tip alone can greatly relieve dry eyes.
And you can also use the 10-10 rule, which means looking at something far away like a bird outside your window for 10 seconds and then at something close by like a photo of someone you love on your desk for 10 seconds and repeating this 10 times while blinking.
Another great way to relax your eyes frequently throughout the day is to doodle. Pick up a pen and doodle on a piece of paper for half a minute while blinking a lot.
- Give yourself an eye massage
To massage your eyes (first remove eye glasses if you have them on) and then rub your hands vigorously together to create heat for 15 seconds. Then cup your hands and place them over your closed eyes for 15 seconds. Repeat three times. Or you can try rubbing your eyelids gently with two fingers, which helps lubricate them by activating your tear ducts creating moist, comfortable eyes.
- Consume Omega 3’s daily
Omega-3’s are fatty acids that are excellent for increasing tear quality and relieving dry eyes. So make sure you’re getting enough Omega-3s in your diet by eating lots of oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and tuna. Or you can get fish oil supplements that come in liquid or capsule form.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan or if the thought of fish oil makes you want to heave, you can include flaxseeds and walnuts. It’s best to crush up the flaxseeds to make them easily digestible. Or opt for a flaxseed oil supplement that comes in either liquid or capsule form.
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