Computers and the internet enable us to do so much… yet what cost do we pay?
My personal relationship with computers began in high school when I developed the hobby of building them from scratch – and then playing hours of online first person shooters on them.
This trend continued. In college this obsession kept me introverted and isolated from the hordes of horny girls that inhabited my campus. After graduation I began working for a software company as an engineer.
After one year working there and staring at a screen for 9 hours per day, I had enough. I quit that job, got my personal training certification, and created HowToBeast – embracing my only real non-digital interest: lifting weights.
This transformation was almost certainly a reaction against the computer-ruled lifestyle I’d developed. On one hand it gave my the skills to find high salary career jobs, but on the other it was draining my energy and happiness, and preventing me from developing any type of social confidence.
Just a few weeks ago Noam Lightstone of LightWayOfThinking.com approached me in hopes of writing a guest post on this very subject. I immediately accepted.
Take it away Noam…
Much of what we do is online and it’s making us anxious, depressed, neurotic, overweight, anti-social, lethargic, and tired…
- You can order groceries online, instead of walking around the aisles at the grocery store.
- You can swipe right on Tinder or message 100 matches on OkCupid instead of just going to a social event and talking to an attractive girl.
- You could go to the gym, or you could order a fat loss product that guarantees results… and then do nothing the product says.
Technology is keeping you isolated, making you lazy, and keeping you inside your head. I could talk about social media, video games and all that… But let’s focus on your work.
What does the typical job in the western world involve? Being in a set area (cubicle), head down focused on your work, and pounded with deadlines. You’re isolated, alone, and struggling. You become a zombie staring at the white screen in front of you.
Society has a heavy push towards intellectualization and learning – it is entirely mind focused. This creates an external force that makes you identify with your thoughts, i.e., you become increasingly neurotic.
Computer related work can:
- Ruin your posture
- Cause repetitive stress and strain injuries
- Cause and increase social anxiety
- Completely deplete motivation and energy
- Foster muscle loss
- Result in back pain
How can you be happy when you are in constant pain, and how can that not lead to you stressing out?
Unless you become a monk or leave on some sort of meditation retreat, computers and technology are necessary these days. My ability to work from remote locations wouldn’t be possible without them. I accept that computers are necessary to do the work I want to, and create the lifestyle I want to.
Accept that computers are necessary, but consider taking the following steps to establish balance and keep your mood steady. I assure you that you won’t regret it:
1. Get outside everyday
Do not stay in your office all day. At least walk from place to place. Add extra time in your schedule to walk instead of taking the bus or subway at least for one or two stops if you have to.
You are probably lacking Vitamin D and hurting yourself by not getting out. I try to take a walk after every section of work I complete.
2. Exercise everyday
Even simple stretching is better than nothing. But get to the gym, run, play an instrument that makes you sweat, throw a Frisbee around with friends… ANYTHING.
Speaking of the gym, men in prehistoric times used to lift, kill, and run… not be chained to desks. Join a gym if you aren’t already a member and learn how to lift – the Testosterone running through your veins after a workout will be worth it. The gym will also help correct postural issues and build lean muscle.
3. Talk to someone new each day
Even if it’s just with the clerk at a store, you need to be social. Try to have a small conversation with people you interact with throughout the day. Schedule social events in your calendar if you have to. Pick one social hobby (sports, martial arts, band, etc.) a week and commit to it.
Conversation gets you out of your head and creates connection instead of fostering isolation via technology. Improv comedy lessons are great, as well as Toastmasters.
4. Limit screen-based time after work
If your job involves a screen, try to limit what you do for your off time when it comes to frying more neurons. Don’t just run from screen, to screen, to screen. If you spent 8 hours on a screen, don’t just come home and spend another 6 watching YouTube.
Do you really think you’ll look back on your life and say, “Wow, I’m really glad I watched all those Vine videos back in the day”? There’s a lot of good books to read, cool hobbies to try out, and friends to hang out with. Go do that instead.
5. Take breaks and work a maximum of 90 minutes straight
I use the Pomodoro Technique for work, and work for 90 minute intervals. The reason being that after 90 minutes you tend to lose your focus and attention, and you’ll need a break. A human can only do a maximum of 6 hours of productive, quality work a day. Keep this in mind as you are churning and burning for 12+ hours.
When you take a break, either stretch (see below) or get outside.
6. Stretch during your breaks and be aware of your posture
Just doing some simple postural stretches can help prevent neck craning and injuries. Proper chairs can also be good, but even so, many of us slouch and set them up improperly. Just as a musical instrument is only as good as its player, a $1,000 chair used by someone who does not know how to sit properly is a $1,000 paperweight.
Sit up straight. Shoulders rolled back. Imagine someone has tied a string to the crown of your head and is pulling you up. Maintain this posture for as long as you can, take a rest, then go back to this position. The side benefits are that you’ll feel more awake and less like falling asleep during the day!
Also consider taking yoga classes. Two small secrets about yoga:
- It helps with relaxation, posture, and flexibility
- The classes are usually 90% female and they all wear yoga pants
7. Use meditation as a means of becoming present again
You should be aware of the benefits of meditation on stress, mood control, and anxiety. Check out this article if you need some convincing.
Technology makes you lose touch with the present and sucks you into a vortex. Meditation helps fight this. Also, meditation increases the amount of grey matter in the brain. Presence, reduced stress, and increased cognitive capabilities? Not a bad deal.
8. Consider working in a co-working space or creating a shared working environment
I usually work at home, in libraries, or in coffee shops. But from time to time, I work at a friend’s office. I get to socialize with my other friends during breaks and I have a comfortable work environment of supportive entrepreneurs. Sounds like a win-win to me.
If you have the freedom, you could simply find like minded people and agree to meet in the same place everyday just so you aren’t isolated. Put the headphones on during work time, but afterwards: take a break, relax, and TALK.
It may be necessary to work on a computer these days, but that doesn’t mean you should spend your life in front of a screen.
Reduce your stress and anxiety. Go run a lap. Raise your mood. Breathe. Go travel. Talk to a girl.
Get outside and live your life. Balance is the key to victory.
This has been a guest article by Noam Lightstone. Noam is the founder of Light Way Of Thinking, a resource aimed at destroying anxiety and depression through self-improvement. His book, Mastery Of The Mind, is available for FREE on Amazon, but only until March 25th – get it HERE.