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How to Reduce Computer Eye Strain
By: John A. Manley


How to Reduce Computer Eye Strain
and Improve Your Vision

by John A. Manley

The first sign Peter Parker had become Spiderman was improved vision. After being bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter reached for his glasses and put them on his nose. Everything appeared blurred. His prescription was useless with his now perfect vision. He also had some other interesting lifestyle changes, such as climbing walls and shooting webs. Yet whenever he becomes stressed these powers diminish and he invariably reaches for his spectacles.

Don't we all go through these types of visual fluctuations? When work requires reading, writing or design, eyestrain is a hindrance both to speed and efficiency. And that translates into poorer results and less pay. A 1999 Occupational Safety and Health Administration study showed 90% of those who use computers for more than three hours a day suffer from vision problems. Do you know any copywriters or graphic designers who use their computers for more than three hours a day? And as we get older and continue to strain our eyes, the result of the eyestrain becomes impossible to ignore.

Yet you can avoid and even reverse these problems. Mortals can share Spiderman's power over his vision. Look at the work of Dr. William Bates, a New York ophthalmologist from the late nineteenth century. He observed the visual behaviour of countless eyes, both human and animal. He discovered that people with poor sight daily achieve 20/20 vision for brief periods without noticing it. Eagles and cats have specific ways of seeing. He developed these findings into the Bates Method, which teaches how to mimic optimal visual behaviour.

Though Dr. Bates views were shunned in his time, they have become popular in our holistic century. Combined with modern ergonomics (the science of ones work environment) there exist powerful steps you can take to remove eyestrain and improve vision. It doesn't cost anything and takes almost no time. In fact you will save time because you'll work faster and better.

Your eyes are among your most important tools. Studies have shown eyestrain directly affects productivity, with fatigued vision causing misread research and proofreading mistakes. Your mind responds with grogginess and your body with weariness.

Experiment with the following tips and after a single day you'll notice a reduction in eyestrain. By the end of the week most people noticed their workdays ran smoother. After a month you'll probably find your vision is sharper.

Maximize Your Work Space for Greater Efficiency and Productivity

•Clean Your Screen - Monitors need more than weekly cleaning, as their static nature attracts dust to their surfaces.

•Arms Length Viewing - Sit straight in front of your computer and stretch your arms out in front of you. Your screen should just touch the tip of your middle finger. Sitting closer or farther away will cause problems. The screen is composed of pixels; being too close makes it difficult to blur these points into letters. If you find you can't see properly at arm's length increase the font size.

•Eye Level - Leaning back at a slight angle, the top of your monitor should be at eye level. You may have to prop the monitor on some old telephone books or purchase a monitor stand (which can double as a shelf underneath).

•Glare - Make sure there is absolutely no glare in your range of vision, either on your monitor or around it. Position your screen so it is free from reflections. If necessary tape a file folder to its side to use as a sunscreen. Do not, however, make the room dark because it is damaging to the eyes.

•Empty Space - We are naturally far-sighted creatures. It is best not to place your monitor against a wall. It can be placed in front of a window only if the sun does not glare through. The best position is probably perpendicular to one of the walls in the center of your workspace, leaving a few feet behind your workstation. This allows your eyes to frequently relax in their natural distant seeing state.

Transform the Way You Work and Create More Reliable Vision

•Sit Straight and Breathe - Back and neck strain create tension in the eyes and slouching prevents the lungs from expanding properly as well. Plenty of oxygen is crucial to the eyes (and your brain!). Take deep breaths whenever you think of it. Keep a window open, when weather permits. Have hanging green plants over your workspace.

•Ten-Ten-Ten - Every ten minutes, look ten feet away, for ten seconds or otherwise you will create near-point stress. Our ancestors were gatherers and hunters—farsighted occupations. Our genes have not yet evolved for sustained arms-length work. A good freeware program that reminds you to take these "micro-breaks" is Workrave.

•Blink, Drink and Splash at the Sink - The flicker rate of monitors causes our eyes to blink less and thus dry out. Writers, try getting into the habit of blinking every time you read or type a period. Designers, use the moving of an image as your reminder. Drink plenty of water and make a point of wetting your eyes every time you use the restroom.

•Don't Use Your Eyes - Close your eyes whenever you can. If something is loading or you need time to think, close your eyes. While closed, keep the eyes turned upward to prevent sleepiness.

•If you're typing a rough draft, try doing it blind. Experiment with your computer's voice synthesizer for reading long on-line documents or reviewing your own work.

•Palming - Whenever you have a minute, cup your palms over your eye sockets (without touching the eyes). This total absence of light will give your eyes a true rest. Rarely does the average person experience total darkness. Sleeping in the pitch black is highly recommended for strengthening vision.

A Super-Technique for Relearning How to See

1.Retype an excerpt from a piece of writing, such as an inspirational quote, a grammar rule, or a spelling definition.
2. Print the excerpt out in small print. As small as you can read when held at arms length.
3.Cut this out and tape it across the top of your monitor.
4.Sitting back, take the first letter in the excerpt and mentally trace an outline around it. Include every nook of the particular font.
5.Now close your eyes and visualize the character as filling your entire field of vision. Imagine it is pitch black on a pure white background. See the edges of the character as being very sharp.
6.Open your eyes and trace the letter once more. Then read the entire line.
7.Repeat this a few times throughout the day. When you feel your vision is sharper, print out another quote at a decreased point size.

Reading small print is like lifting weights with your eyeballs. This technique has created microscopic vision in its most serious practitioners. Many legally blind people after intense practice with the Bates Method now have driver's licenses.

Unlike Spiderman, we need to work for our "spidey"-powers. But you can always try microwaving a spider and see what happens when it bites you.


The Cure of Imperfect Sight by Treatment Without Glasses (1920)
by William H. E. Bates, M.D.

Self-Healing: My Life and Vision
by Meir Schneider, Ph.D., L.M.T.

Relearning to See: Improve Your Eyesight--Naturally!
by Thomas R. Quackenbush

Vision For Life at www.improveyourvision.com.

About the Author

John A. Manley is an Ontario, Canada based freelance writer who specializes in direct mail response projects. He also writes science fiction with a metaphysical bent. His work has been published in Freebird at www.freebird-zine.com. Contact John at creativityrising@distributel.net.

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