We may not work in the booze fueled, smoky office spaces of the Mad Men era anymore, but it turns out that office work is still killing us. Deepening research into the effects of long-term sitting is revealing that we’re destroying our bodies in all sorts of horrifying ways, even up to shaving two years of our lives off.
Besides sitting, many of us lead stress filled, computer screen saturated lives, and have formed bad habits that can lead to suffering and agony.
Here are 11 ways that you can avoid letting your job speed your demise.
1. Drink lots of water
There are numerous advantages to drinking a lot of water.
Most obviously, it keeps your body hydrated, which is essential for good health. Secondly, it will get you out of the habit of sitting for extended periods of time, and help you avoid the problems associated with long term sitting. Drinking more water will force you to stand up and go to the water cooler more frequently, and consequently take more bathroom breaks. Getting up every 30 minutes or so is optimal. This tip is from the office warriors at Resume Genius.
One bonus benefit of going to the water cooler more often is socializing more frequently with your co-workers, which is inexorably connected with success. So, instead of taking a smoke break, take a water break.
2. Surround yourself with healthy snacking options
Buy unsweetened dried fruits, and unsalted mixed nuts, and keep them around your desk. Doesn’t sound appetizing?
Well, to quote Michael Pollan from his book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual: “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re not hungry.”
The key here is eating healthy snacks that taste good enough to eat without feeling sick, but not good enough that you’ll want to binge on it. Another benefit is that snacking throughout the day is actually a very healthy way to eat, and will prevent you from overeating at lunch.
There bonus here? Avoiding the post-lunch food coma!
Maybe you aren’t tired enough to nap, but are feeling stressed out, and your work is getting sloppy. Scientific research into meditation has been taking off, and its benefits are quickly being proven. Highly detailed tools, such as using euro-imaging and genomics technology, is showing that there is an actual positive biological effect caused by meditating – literally switching off and on genes related to stress and immune function.
4. Drink coffee in moderation, and drink it black
The science of coffee nutrition is once again settling on “good for you, in moderation.” Dr. Rob van Dam writes that, “research over the past few years suggests that coffee consumption may protect against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, and liver cirrhosis” and potentially cardiovascular disease.
Note: He also says that pregnant women, and people who have a hard time controlling their blood pressure and blood sugar should still avoid coffee.
Amazingly, the research also found that people who drank up to 6 cups of coffee a day is not associated with death from any cause.
Also, if you have a sugar and cream habit, you should slowly reduce the amount added to your coffee over time. Before you know it you’ll only be ingesting healthy antioxidants instead of sugar and fat and preservatives found in most sweeteners and flavorings.
5. Take power naps
This may not be possible if you’re in an office environment that is either frenetic or judgmental, and that is a shame. A 20-minute power nap can improve alertness and motor learning skills like typing or playing instruments. The 15-20 minutes that you spend not doing anything will actually end up making you more productive, and less sloppy.
According to research, it also beats out a cup of coffee.
6. Regularly clean your keyboard and mouse
According to the public health board of Singapore the average keyboard has 3,300 microbes per square inch, approximately 60% more than a toilet seat.
Your fingers are touching it all day – then you’re probably snacking with those fingers. Then, you may be shaking other people’s hands, all of who have been touching their own keyboards. It’s easy to forget, but you should spend at least some time cleaning your keyboard!
Otherwise, it’s easy to spread germs.
7. Relax with calming music or apps
Calm.com provides a mobile app that has a variety of meditative calming music. If using a desktop you can visit their website for the same music and calming images. Great to Zen out and regain your calmness in the middle of a hectic day, reducing stress and leading to a healthier lifestyle. 8tracks or Pandora also have dedicated meditative and relaxation channels, when combined with high quality headphones can really focus the mind.
8. Buy computer glasses to reduce strain on your eyes
Long hours stating at a computer screen can take its toll on the eyes. Many of you may know well the strain, exhaustion, and even pain caused by it. There are special glasses that you can purchase which will lessen the symptoms of computer vision syndrome, which includes eyestrain, dry eyes, headaches, and blurred vision.
If you experience these symptoms, set up an appointment with your optometrist or ophthalmologist to prescribe a pair that can help you. s
9. Stretch regularly
Stretching is a well-heeled way of increasing blood flow, helping you reduce and manage stress, improve your posture, and generally maintain good health. You can use this slideshow to teach you some stretches that you can either do sitting at your desk, or somewhere more private in your office where you won’t distract your co-workers.
10. Walk down the stairs
Or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, walk up them. The important thing is to set realistic goals for yourself. Walking down a few flights of stairs is a perfect way to counteract hours of sitting, because you can get a light workout on your leg muscles, without wearing yourself out. In addition, it appears that using your downhill leg muscles can lower your blood sugar.
11. Laugh more with your co-workers
Even if you’re in a depressing workspace, try to make yourself laugh more often. Researchers have shown that it can increase blood flow, immune response, blood sugar levels, and relaxation and sleep.
If your health isn’t enough to convince you to start laughing more, then how about your wallet? An Australian researcher found that people who reported being more satisfied with their lives earned $1766.70 more than unhappy people.
Don’t let yourself wither away at your desk job. Combat the urge to stay locked in your old habits, and try to keep yourself as healthy and positive as possible using these basic strategies. A final tip: don’t try everything at once. It’s easier to form new habits slowly, over time – so pick ones that you think you can start with easily, and move up from there.
You’ll start feeling better sooner than you think.