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How to Stop your Computer Melting your Mind (and Body)

If you’re anything like me you probably spend a good 8-9 hours a day sat staring at your computer screen. On more productive days you’re staring at it intensely as you totally kick work’s… attitude. On less productive days, you’re staring at it intensely as it crushes your will to live. Well, we can’t help you in the psychological warfare of work but we can give you a few top tips to stop you walking away from your PC pal in thirty years’ time as a decrepit, squinty shell of your former self.

healthy computer

The basic equation for problems related to working at a computer is an unholy trifecta of:

Workstation conditions (lighting, chair height etc.) + your existing physical situation (useless eyeballs like mine, an existing back problem etc.) + how long you spend at the computer at a time (each session, each day, each week etc.). So, how can you save yourself in this terrifying technical time?

Pimp your station to the max

–          Make sure your monitor is about 10-20 degrees below eye level and straight ahead of you. The screen should be approximately 15-32 inches away. The display should be sharp and free from reflection and glare.

–          Your keyboard height should allow your elbows to bend at 90 degrees.

–          A foam pad will stop your wrists pressing on the desk. Get one shaped like a unicorn or something, then it’ll make you happy too.

–          Choose a comfy chair that offers support in all the right places. Back pain is the worst.

General health

–          Get up for a few minutes every hour to stretch your legs and to remind yourself that there is light that isn’t generated by a screen. It’s glorious (probably); go and take a quick peep out the window.

–          Mix it up. If you can, switch up computer work with reading, filing, and hand writing etc.

–          Sit with your feet flat on the floor. Rest them on a Yellow Pages if you’re a little vertically challenged, or want to look like the cute kid from the old Christmas ad.

–          Stretch as much as possible. Roll your head around – give your neck a good stretch in all directions; relax your arms at your sides and rotate your shoulders; massage your shoulders – massage a friend’s. Just make sure you get the permission of whoever you’re doing it to first.

–          Use voice software so you can type less, and flex your fingers regularly.

–          Look away from the screen every few minutes (you may actually feel your eyes well up in gratitude), and keep a good distance from your screen. Oh, and don’t forget to blink; it’s important. Plus nothing says ‘I’m going to crazymurder you’ like an unblinking stare.

–          Drink water and make sure you get regular breaks. Eat your lunch away from your computer. If nothing else, bits of bread and banana milkshake are a serious pain to extract from a keyboard.

–          Studies have shown that being on devices and doing work late at night can give you a hangover and make you less productive the next day, so try and leave work at work, which is where it belongs.

Blue Light

The hangover effect could well be because of blue light. Using electronics late at night has been shown to supress melatonin, which is vital for both long and short term health; everything from trying to lose weight, to reducing the risk of cancer, and generally making you feel rubbish. Shortwave, or ‘blue’ light, has been found the most melatonin-suppressive, and is given off by electronic devices, such as TVs, phones and computers.

Other research has suggested that because your computer screen tries to emulate daylight (assuming that’s when you’ll be working) it’s really bright. As it gets later in the day your screen still burns with the fire of a thousand suns but it’s getting dark outside (if you’re in the UK it’s probably been dark most of the day) and it’s just confusing for your poor peepers.

F.lux and Redshift are just two of the programmes that will adjust the lighting of your screen depending on where you live and the time of day, and should help. If you’re really serious about blocking the blues though, get a pair of amber glasses to protect yourself as bright room light also suppresses melatonin.

More and more of our day now requires serious computer time, but our bodies haven’t quite got the memo yet. So the question is, are you working for your computer or is your computer working for you?

What are your tips for keeping a healthy relationship with your computer?

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