Let’s go Ouside – Is Too Much ‘Viewing’ Damaging Our Health?

There has been concern about possible harm being caused to our eyes from staring at various screens for too long. Television screens, smart phones, tablets, computer screens, all play a huge part in our everyday lives. I often worry for our children and grandchildren who could be more affected than the older generation; they spend a lot of time using the available technology, both at school and at home. Tablets are a great asset  to learning and in many ways invaluable, so how can we monitor their use? There have been worrying headlines in the media stating that visual problems are on the increase. It has been claimed that more children are becoming short-sighted now than ever before, and there has also been a rise in hearing problems due to overuse of headphones.

Many of us, myself included, spend more than a few hours a day sitting down staring at a computer screen; often it is the main feature of our working day.

 Could we all really be damaging our health? What are the implications here as super technology isn’t going to go away? Indeed, the modern world couldn’t manage without it. It remains to be seen what new and amazing developments could be on the horizon, but how will these new developments affect our long term health? Of course, advancements in the field of medicine could help us tremendously so there are many positives as well as concerns.

I listened to the advice of an optometrist on the question of the increase in shortsightedness. The interesting, and encouraging news was this: yes there is a small increase in visual changes but this is not due to too much time staring at screens as we may have assumed – it is due to spending too much time indoors. Often children are not spending as much time outside in natural daylight as previous generations did. They are missing out on the amounts of natural light needed for eye health.  I think this is actually good news! We have a remedy. Fresh air and exercise! We can’t stop our children using their screens and games but we can encourage plentiful amounts of outdoor play when they put the screens on idle for a while. I have yet to meet a child who turns down the chance of a game of football, climbing trees or a visit to the park!

Ever since Stone Age man trundled his way around the land, human beings have been filled with the desire to learn and to evolve. We have always found a way to adjust to modern ways of living and hopefully we always will. But sometimes it is good to take a look back at some of the ways of our ancestors and follow some of the older and perhaps, simpler ways of living now and again.

For those of us who tend to be desk bound, more serious problems could arise if we do not move around more. Sitting for long periods of time can do us untold damage in the long run. Scary stories abound about the results of sitting hunched over our desk for hours on end, including upping the risk of diabetes and cancer. But again, we can take simple steps to improve things. We cannot all change our daily work requirements, but we can make a difference to our daily routine and feel much better for it.

So there are a few simple solutions here:

We can encourage our children and grandchildren to enjoy outside play with us on a regular basis – leave the smartphones/tablets tucked away for a while!

When spending time in front of the computer screen encourage children (and yourself) to look away into the distance every twenty minutes. This alters focus and exercises the eye muscles. (As you get older it takes longer to re-adjust your focus)

Remind yourself to blink regularly when looking at the screen – we tend to shut off this natural response and can consequently suffer with dry, irritated eyes.

Even when working don’t sit for too long! Get up every half hour at least. Walk around the room. Stand up to talk on the phone. Go for a walk at lunch time if you can. Fetch a glass of water every so often.

If walking around listening to music on your headphones – turn the volume down a notch or two. Your ears will thank you in the future!

Don’t forget the sunscreen and the sunglasses if the sun is out!

‘Solvitur Ambulando’ – ‘It is solved by walking’.


64th Springtime….

I had to write about the passing of time today. I have returned from the town where I was born in Cornwall, after spending a long weekend there at a family reunion. I spent quite a lot of time in the house that belonged to my grandparents and where my Aunt and Uncle now live. I stood in front of the same window where I stood over sixty years ago wearing a bridesmaids dress and clutching a posy of wild flowers; a shy child then, uncomfortably striking a pose for the camera. I walked around the garden where I have walked so many times long ago, safe in the care of my grandparents. I looked at the old granite trough where chubby goldfish still swim, and the little avenue of apple trees I used to run through. I had a curiously strange, yet comforting feeling that my long departed grandparents were somehow there with me.

Nostalgia continued as we gathered with my father and various relatives to celebrate his cousin’s 90th birthday. Aunts, godparents and old friends each had a story to tell me, and a memory of the past to share. As we stood in the garden in the lovely Spring sunshine we looked at old photographs of the family and marvelled at the likenesses of our own children to their little known ancestors. We talked about those long gone as though they had only just stepped out of the room. It made me think that those we love and who loved us remain a part of our lives and in some ways have made us who we are.


                                                  Poppies in my Grandparent’s garden.

Next day, at the beach, I meandered across the sand as I have done so many times in the past. I thought about the time I was punished at school by a bossy headmistress, when I handed in a note from my grandmother asking for permission for me to leave early one day. The headmistress knew that we were keen to get to the sea-side before tea-time! I guess she feared my leaving a little early would have had a detrimental effect on my education. I’m not really sure it would have made a big difference and who can doubt the benefit of a dose of fresh sea air? Deep in thought, I still got caught out by the stream that runs the length of the sand to the sea and offers no bridge to cross from one side of the sand to the other. Ah well, the shoes had to come off. There was nothing for it but to wade across to get to the crystal clear rock pools.


Returning home to Dove Lane it was time to settle back in to routine. And yet, as always, family was uppermost in my mind. Our two sons were able to spend time together yesterday, an occasion that doesn’t happen as often as they like, as the eldest one lives in America, and the younger one was visiting him from England. They ‘Facetimed’ me and I watched their nine, (yes, they have nine children between them!) children playing together for the first time. There is something beyond heartwarming seeing your grandchildren naturally bonding together.

I am getting older now. I will soon have completed 64 Springtimes. Maybe I hanker  occasionally for my youth, for the odd bit of fame even, but I desire no money except insofar as I should like to be able to have enough to spend on my children and grandchildren… Can I still be helpful? I hope I can be in a useful, personal and direct way. I hope I have acquired some wisdom; I know one thing – I am well equipped to love.

I remember staring at my grandmother’s hands, they were a bit wrinkly and covered with veins and some brown splotches; they looked rather old to me, but it didn’t matter, they were there to hold on to me. That doesn’t seem long ago, yet now, here I am with my grandmother’s hands.