30% of the world is currently myopic (or near-sighted) and over 50% could be by 2050. In the United States alone, myopia has doubled in the last three decades. The rise of myopia is mostly due to spending more time online and less time in nature. Check out this one easy hack that can help improve your eyesight and prevent myopia from developing or progressing.
Look Out for These Screen Time Dangers
When it comes to the relationship between your vision and screen time, there’s more than meets the eye. In fact, a 2022 study looked at 435 participants who increased their screen time since 2020. 81.37% of those participants experienced eye strain or eye-related headaches because of increased screen time. But how can you naturally protect your eye health when you have to be on screens for work all day? With this easy solution: follow the 20/20/20 rule.
The eyes are “the window” through which we experience the world: taking in information, and assimilating it by way of brain activity. By design, the eyes have exceptional endurance but they still need sufficient rest periods, especially from digital input.
The more time spent in front of digital devices, the greater the strain on your eyes. Extensive screen time not only strains the eye muscles and other structural elements of vision, it can also lead to:
- blurry vision
- dry eyes
- neck strain
- sensitivity to both indoor and outdoor light
To reduce these negative effects, many ophthalmologists suggest using a blue-light and/or a glare filter over your computer screen or wearing glasses designed to minimize blue-light and screen glare. However, these tools do not make it okay to power through more screen activity.
The 20/20/20 Rule for Protecting Eye Health
The 20/20/20 Rule, recommended by optometrists, is a way to give our eyes the necessary reprieve from activity and protect them from damage. Your eyes require a complete rest from visual stimuli and processing. Ideally, this would be walking away from screen work for several minutes, getting some fresh air, or closing the eyes.
When that’s not possible, the 20/20/20 Rule is an easy way-at home, school, or work-to help protect the eyes from strain caused by too much screen time:
For every 20 minutes spent using a screen, look away at something that is 20 feet away from you for a total of 20 seconds (it takes 20 seconds for your eyes to completely relax). There are many apps available to set screen-time breaks or vision breaks so check the Apple and Android stores for a resource that is suitable for you.
Nature and Your Eyes
So what should you look at for those 20 seconds? Nature! The more natural, the better.
Many studies have shown how effective spending time in nature is for your eye health. A landmark 2021 study studied how likely children were to get myopia as an adult. Study participants who spent more time outside were less likely to get myopia.
While scientists are still unsure why time in nature leads to improved eyesight, it might be because of the extra vitamin D. A 2018 study compared participants’ eyesights with vitamin D levels. Participants with higher vitamin D levels had better eyesight overall.
Yet another study from 2015 suggested that the main indicator of better eyesight in Chinese children was time playing outside and being in an outdoor environment, which is more holistic than studies which point to sunlight only being the cause.
Even if the jury’s still out on the reason for nature helps your eyesight, one thing’s for sure: nature improves overall eye health. There are plenty of ways to integrate nature into your workday. Whenever you feel your eyes are tired, you could go for a quick walk or choose to eat lunch outside. You can also nature-charge the 20/20/20 rule above. Instead of looking at any random object that’s 20 feet away for 20 seconds, you could look at a nature-infused object every 20 minutes.
Here are some ideas on how to integrate nature into your work from home space so it’s easier to restore your eyes during those twenty second breaks:
- A houseplant
- A window, especially with greenery outside
- A picture of nature
- A furry friend
- A fish tank
- Position your workspace so it gets plenty of natural light
For example, you could set a timer for every twenty minutes. When the timer goes off, you could look at your houseplant which is 20 feet away from your desk. Or, you could buy an aquarium and some fish at the pet store. Using a screen time tracking app, you could get an alert every twenty minutes to look at your fish for 20 seconds.
There are plenty of ways to integrate nature into your work routine, including this easy 20/20/20 rule to improve eye health. Have you tried this rule or have any effective ways to nature-charge your workday?