In this day and age it is very difficult to maintain good vision. We are bombarded with opportunities for visual entertainment, interact with screens of different size throughout the day, and fixate our gaze in visual step lock whenever in traffic. Taking care of your eyes becomes difficult as good practices are hard to implement on a daily basis, and maintaining good eyesight becomes almost impossible. This article discusses the common culprits of dry eyes and myopia, elaborating upon a series of lifestyle interventions for eyes health.
Most eye problems develop at an early age, and usually manifest in different levels of severity according to genetics. However, there is still quite a bit of leeway in how far symptoms progress, considering a given timeframe. Glasses and lenses, instead of being treated as medical tools, are regarded by many as a onetime fix solution. It is no wonder, therefore, that diopters change progressively, given how we exhaust the retina with work on screen or hours of visual entertainment.
This article will discuss the best ways for maintaining good eyesight, without delving too deep in optometry and how vision works. Instead, we will talk about focus, contractions of the eye muscle, and dryness as a first red flag towards myopia and other eye related problems.
Maintaining good eyesight – why is it a challenge?
Evolved in a hunter-gatherer world, our eyes have learned to focus on objects of various size and shape, and across various distance. To achieve this, at least according to the layman version, the eye muscle contracts and relaxes. The further the object, and the smaller it is, the more relaxed the muscle. And since our gaze was rarely fixed in a single focal point, we have also evolved mechanisms for adjusting focus.
In order for the eyes to change their focus, and observe a nearby tree as opposed to a faraway rock, we blink, moisturize the retina, and contract these tiny muscles for readjusting the lens.
The problem occurs when we spend hours indoors, and thus cannot relax the retina by looking into the distance. Fixating our gaze onto the screen, especially under poor lighting conditions, we tense the retina and relaxation is nowhere in sight (pun status: seen).
This predicament results with dry eyes, slight pain in the temple area, twitching of the eye muscle, headache and sometimes even the development of myopia.
The cure, however, is practicing good vision habits, which is to say using our eyes as they were meant to be used during thousands of years of evolution.
Tips for taking care of eyesight
In order to reverse the strain on your eyes, and restore their health, some habits and exercises are in order. We will discuss about integrating these into your lifestyle, so you can persist doing them for years to come, protecting your eyes in the process.
So what is the number one habit for maintaining good eyesight?
Gazing in the open
It is a sad predicament that we get up in the morning and fixate our gaze onto the smartphone screen. Even without it, most homes are poorly lit, especially when it comes to natural light, and you cannot look further than few feet away without an object or a wall interrupting your vision. This, as we discussed above, prevents your eyes from relaxing sufficiently. You don’t blink to change focus, the retina is fixated, and you end up with dry eyes even before looking at your laptop screen.
Going outside changes this predicament by allowing your eye to relax and change focus freely. You will notice how it properly moisturizes and how you start to blink.
Adopting this habit, even for few minutes every morning, makes up for a monumental difference in the long run.
Maintaining good eyesight through shorter screen sessions
Another important habit for eyesight maintenance is not necessarily about reducing your screen time as it is about the introduction of intervals. Whenever you sit down to look at a screen, which is a situation where vision is fixated, you tense the retina. To manage strain, all you have to do is take small pauses after 15 or 20 minutes. Lift your gaze, look at an object far away and try to blink. You will notice your focus readjusting and your eyes moisturizing. Everything that sits at about 15 to 20 feet away from you will do the job. It is even better to go outside for a small break, but all of us must respect professional circumstances that often prohibit wandering about during work hours.
After several such breaks, make sure to take a longer one, where you can look outside the window, or perhaps exit the building for a short circle around the block. Forget your smartphone for a while and try to look at a distance. Make a conscious habit to go outside during your lunch break.
Lenses or glasses – what is better for eyes health?
Taking care of your vision can often times be contrary to the necessities of your current lifestyle. It is difficult to look at a screen without a proper diopter if you happen to have myopia. People choose lenses because they are convenient, but the truth of the matter is that by the virtue of their placement lenses often dry our eyes. Glasses, in this regard are much better.
If you are reluctant to wear them to work, at least make a conscious habit to take the lenses out while home, and perhaps use glasses if you must.
If you really insist on lenses, make sure to change them regularly, and take the out for at least one or two hours daily, where the eyes can rest.
Good lighting for healthy eyes
Watching movies at night can be a real issue, since poor lighting requires even more effort form your eyes as they are trying to discern between details, colors and visual depth.
Try at least to light the back of the TV, allowing light to ricochet behind and against the wall. This makes the lighting contrast less pronounced, and you will not be focusing on a narrow field of vision which is why your retina is tensed and tired. LED stripes usually do the job, since Philips is the only brand of TV manufacturers with the ambilight patent. Regarding your room, note that warm yellow light is perfect for nighttime ambience, but try to increase the number of light sources and to properly brighten the room.
The reverse is also true – avoid strong daily light against a TV set or any other screen, as glare can also hurt your eyesight in the long run.
Clean the windshield for maintaining good vision
There is one thing that is even worse for your eyesight than fixating your gaze several feet in front of you, on the road, without blinking, and that is doing that through a dirty windshield.
The difference between a clean windshield and one filled with spots is really night and day when it comes to eye strain. For this reason, it is best to always have a wet towel in your car, and good quality wipers (for those rainy days).
By the same stretch of logic, make sure to occasionally wipe your monitor screen your TV and your smartphone.
Getting enough rest also impacts eyesight
If you have slept for 5 hours only, it doesn’t really matter whether or not you are following the healthy eye habits to the letter. Your vision needs rest, and making sure that you sleep for seven hours every night is crucial for maintaining good eyesight.
Eye exercises for taking care of your vision
Although the Bates method has been proven wrong many times by scientific observation, there are some exercises that still produce results when it comes to reducing eye strain.
His most referenced eye exercise is called palming, and it is performed by placing both palms over your face, especially the eyes, as to prevent light from entering. With eyelids closed, you sit in artificial dark for up to several minutes, two or three times per day. According to Bates, this should slightly reduce eye strain.
However, going outside and looking at a distance is much better for maintaining your 20/20 than any of Bates’s exercises.
Other techniques also exist, and here is one that I would recommend from personal experience. Sit without lenses or glasses, preferably in the morning, with a page of black text, typed on a white paper. It can be a book or any other type of document that you can comfortably hold at an arm’s length or closer depending on your vision.
Hold the text as close to your face as you must in order to be able to focus on the fine curves of the letters. Then, push the text further away from you to the point where lines start to blur just slightly.
Try to blink and open your eyelids completely, allowing your eye to readjust focus. After several attempts you should be able to relax the muscle enough in order to “improve the resolution”, thus seeing more detail. Then, blink several more times and try to obtain this improved vision at least for a couple of repetitions.
Finally, push the text slightly further away from your face. Repeat the process until 10 minutes have passed and you have readjusted focus by increasing the distance, for two or three times. As a result of this exercise, my eyes always feel relaxed, somewhat better moisturized, and eye strain is generally reduced. Note that I have myopia with a diopter of minus 7 on the right, and -6.5 on the left eye, which is quite debilitating when compared to the average person’s eyesight.
Furthermore, Chinese acupoint exercises, where gentle massage is applied to several spots on the back of the head, the forehead, the sides of the nose, and the cheeks and temple area, show promising effects on myopia prevention in young children, as well as controlled progression of the condition. Two studies, the first published in the Journal Scientific report and the second in BMC complementary medicine and therapies, report positive results to a degree that is notable.
“The traditional eye exercises of acupoints appeared to have a modest protective effect on myopia [in the studied population]…”
Consult with your optometrist regarding eye drops
Eye drops although sound in principle, are usually causing more harm than good in practice. Having your eyes artificially moisturized, they get “lazy” thus drying much faster.
Remember than looking at a distance is a much better way to keep your eyes wet than applying eye drops, and it is a much cheaper version for maintaining good eyesight.
Diet for maintaining good eyesight
When it comes to food, your eyes need antioxidants more than anything else. These include beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Omega 3 fatty acids.
So, in order to obtain these antioxidants from your diet, you will have to eat ingredients like:
- Fish (Salmon, Mackerel, and sardines)
- Walnuts and almonds
- Kale and spinach
- Lemons and oranges
- Pumpkin seeds
Few of these can contribute towards maintaining good eyesight, but the more you manage to consume on a regular basis the better.
Sugar overconsumption might raise the level of glucose in your blood, and this can, in some cases, lead to blurry vision and eye strain by inflaming the lens under the retina. It is important, therefore, to keep blood sugar low, by eating less refined carbohydrates, or reducing the amount of carbohydrates within a single meal.
More habits for taking care of eyes health
Other habits for maintaining good eyesight include exercise, as blood circulation is improved and oxygen levels are higher, thus removing more toxins that might negatively impact your vision.
Another important lifestyle change for maintaining good vision is to cease smoking. This further reduces harmful toxins.
Minimizing blue light is somewhat beneficial, and you can achieve this by installing color filters, or buying hardware that emits less of this harmful light variant.
Wearing sunglasses is also beneficial considering the negative effects of UV light. However, make sure to wear clean and spotless sunglasses, and don’t hold back from investing more money in quality lenses.
Finally, since we are spending many hours in front of the TV screen, make sure that it is properly installed on the wall, or positioned on the table. The center of the TV should be at the same line of height as your eyes when you are sitting down on the sofa. Personally, I would go with an even lower placement, since that way the eyeballs don’t have to strain continually, trying to turn few millimeters upwards. Relax your eyes and you will notice that their natural tendency is to look slightly downwards, therefore making upward focus a challenge, especially if you struggle to maintain it for two hours at a time.
Conclusion – Maintaining good eyesight
In order to maintain good eyesight there are number of lifestyle changes that you have to consider. These include the decision to quit smoking, exercise, eat healthy foods, and adopt healthy habits for relaxing your eyes throughout the day. Taking care of your eyes is much easier by following the checklist above, and you can start by implementing one point at a time.