Saturday, January 2, 2010

2. Reading

The Idea: Myopia (nearsightedness) has been linked with literate cultures.1 The more we read, the greater the tendency for us to become myopic. This doesn’t need to be—many of us read a lot without harming our vision. There are things that we can all do make reading a more relaxing experience for the eyes.

How To:
• When reading a book, look up from the page once every 2 minutes. You can do this when turning the page. Look around the room. If the room has windows, look outside into the distance as well.
• While working at the computer, look away from the screen every 2 minutes—in fact, do this right now. Look around the room and out the window. Take breaks from sitting at the computer every 20 minutes, getting up and doing something else before sitting back down. (I just took a break from writing these words to go and make some tea!)
• Sit up straight while reading, relaxing the neck, shoulders, and eyes. Avoid collapsing the abdomen and lower back. Breathe deeply. Are you breathing as you read this?

Testimonial: I had this tech-savvy friend who'd graduated from M.I.T. and worked with computers all day long. He set his computer to sound a little chime every 2 minutes as a signal for him to look away from his screen. Every 20 minutes another alert signaled him to get up and walk around his desk, maybe going and grabbing a snack, getting a drink of water, having a conversation with a co-worker, etc. He spent many hours a day in front of a computer screen, yet maintained his eyesight.

More Info
1 Thomas R. Quackenbush’s textbook Relearning to See (North Atlantic Books, 1997) has an entire chapter on reading.
• Quackenbush references much of the work done by Dr. William H. Bates, quoting entire pages from Bates’ seminal work Better Eyesight Without Glasses (Jove/HBJ Books, 1978).
• Meir Schneider recommends these practices in his audiobook, Meir Schneider’s Miracle Eyesight Method (published by Sounds True, 1996). Here’s a video of Schneider discussing this and some other aspects of developing relaxed vision habits:
• There's a lot more on developing better vision habits around reading. I'll by including more in a future post.

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