Last week, I ended my first #digitalselfcare post with a concrete suggestion. Have you updated your devices? If you are reading this, and you haven’t, do it now! Seriously – all of those pop-up reminders are such a hassle. Upgrade to the latest versions of everything and breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, apps too!
Today, I want to focus on the relationship between you and your hardware. Another way to say that is I’m going to write about your body and your devices, and what impact your screens might have on your posture, your eyes, your joints, your mood, etc. In later posts, we’ll talk about browser extensions, email etiquette and strategy, and more!
Always in f.lux
Phones have gotten more sophisticated in recent years, and they can adjust to the light (for example, becoming dimmer when you are outside in the sun!). This is better for our eyes and it also makes it easier to see information on our screens. Did you know that you can get something like that for your computer? It doesn’t adjust to the external light (since most of us use computers inside most of the time), but it will adjust light based on time of day (emitting warmer light as the day gets later). Research shows that adjusting light waves from your computer also helps you sleep since screen lights trick your body into thinking it’s day time. Want to learn more? Look into downloading F.lux (free for Windows computers). It takes a bit of getting used to at first, but then, it’s all of the OTHER computers that look weird!
Movin’ and groovin’
There’s a TON of research (not to mention anecdotal evidence) that sitting in one place for hours on end isn’t so great for our bodies. Even though I’m an award winning couch-lounger, I take this advice to heart at work and try to get up at least once an hour to get a drink or chat with a co-worker. There are a plethora of apps out there that are programmed to remind you to stretch, move, or rest your eyes. The one I like the best is Stretchly because a) it’s open source (yaaay!) and b) it’s very pleasant (pleasant green color, pleasant bell sound). Hold on – I’ll be right back after I take a stretch break! (Oh, and if you don’t want to download anything, I really like this list of recommended computer stretches, some of which you can do at your desk, from the folks at University of Michigan health services).
The glasses are half full
I fell for a advertisement to buy screen glasses that block harmful computer light – and the truth is, I really like them! (I promise, this is not a sponsored post). The company I went with is called Pixel (not going to link here because I know they’ll spam you otherwise!) but I liked their styles and other computer glasses tend to have a yellow tint and thick lenses and these really don’t. They are supposed to reduce eye strain and I’ve noticed that they feel really comfortable and yet they block some of the harsh computer glow. They were $70 when I bought them. I think they even have some prescription options now, too (I don’t ordinarily wear glasses).
The internet is RIFE with advice (some good, some bad) about ergonomics and computer desks (ie the optimum arrangement for computer, mouse, keyboard and monitor with your feet flat on the ground, no neck strain, and good posture).
To be perfectly honest, I’m no ergonomic expert, but the little I know says that you should aim for a comfortable and adjustable desk chair.
Where I really want to advocate is that employers (grassroots organizations too!) should allocate funding for comfortable and appropriate work furniture and maybe even a consultation or two with a physical therapist or ergonomics practitioner.
One of the real pitfalls of “self care” rhetoric is to take everything and make it YOUR responsibility, instead of collective responsibility. All of the apps/glasses/stretch breaks in the world aren’t going to fix “digital harm” if you don’t have appropriate tools or furniture, or even more than that, adequate support and resources to support health and wellness.
I’m going to suggest an ergonomics workshop at my office because I think this is a conversation we need to get better at having! What’s a next step for you to improve the relationship between your body and your technology? Write me a note or leave a comment!