5 Great Ways To Improve Your Health At Work
Whether you work to live or live to work, chances are you spend a sizeable chunk of your day at work. For many of us, this involves long hours in a sitting position, under fluorescent lighting, with minimal human contact, limited access to sunlight and nature and set hours to eat, drink and rest. Unfortunately, while this has become the norm for modern living, it’s not a set of conditions under which human bodies and minds are designed to flourish.
Before we look at small but significant changes that you can (and must) make to facilitate great overall health at work, it’s important to look at some important reasons why your working conditions are probably fundamentally bad for you…
Your job may be ruining your health
Human bodies are designed to roam, search for food, procreate and rest. In that respect, we’re very much like any other animal. If you put a dog or a cat in a cage for 8-10 hours a day with no stimulus the chances are it’s going to become depressed. Why should humans be any different?
Office jobs involve many environmental factors that can compromise our health and potentially shave years off of our life expectancy. Here are three of the worst offenders.
Sitting for long periods on a daily basis is ruinous to your health. While we’ve used chairs throughout our history rarely have we spent as much time in them. Anthropologically speaking, sitting is a relatively new configuration for our bodies and it’s not one that we’re completely accustomed to just yet. Hence, spending too long sitting can lead to severe health problems including increased risk of muscular-skeletal disorders, obesity, diabetes and even cancer and heart disease.
Lunch breaks are a nightmare! Our bodies are designed to accommodate small and regular bursts of nutrition, not to starve ourselves for several hours until we’re allowed to eat. Our inevitable low blood sugar in these instances causes us to reach for heavily processed foods that are ruinous to our health. This problem is compounded if you’ve skipped breakfast.
Bad air pervades almost all offices. The EPA calls is Sick Building Syndrome, whereby recirculated air distributes the collective pathogens and bacteria of the workforce all around the building along with a less than healthy dose of molds, spores and toxic particles.
Meetings aren’t just boring, they’re depressing. There’s evidence to suggest that the kinds of ‘motivational’ meetings that promote corporate indoctrination and strategy are actually detrimental to the emotional well-being of employees.
So, what can you do about it?
Well, the glib answer is to change your job. If your current job keeps you inert and deskbound, stagnating in a cubicle then you could change it for something more active and rewarding. Nursing, for example, is a physically active job that offers far greater emotional, physical and psychological gratification than most office based positions. It also offers opportunities for learning and development, keeping you motivated and stimulated while allowing for career diversification and progression through a range of online nursing graduate programs. Teaching also offers many of the same gratifications that easily outweigh the innate pressures of the job. For many of us, however, who are reliant on the monetary income that our jobs provide or haven’t the time, resources or inclination to retrain, it becomes a case of making the best of what we have. The good news is that there are numerous small lifestyle changes that you can make that will make a real positive difference and improve your physical and mental health at work.
Little changes that make a big difference
While office jobs are beset with threats to our well-being, there are small ways in which we can either mitigate or counteract the damage that they do. Try to do as many of these as you can every day and you’ll start to notice your energy levels and motivation improve as well as your outlook towards your job and life outside work.
Don’t skip breakfast- Legions of busy commuters leave for work in a huge rush every morning, but if this means that you’re skipping breakfast on the way out then set your alarm for a half hour earlier. Not eating within two hours of waking in the morning puts your body in a ‘stressed’ state, which can slow your metabolism to a crawl and even increase your risk of high blood pressure and coronary issues. Starting your day with scrambled eggs which contain B vitamins to improve neurological function or antioxidant rich blueberries which improve memory and motor skills, will improve your performance and make you feel great.
Walk or cycle to work if you can- Many of us are beholden to cars or public transport to get to work and back but walking or cycling are far more beneficial to your physical and mental health. As well as providing a cardiovascular workout they also expose you to sunlight and nature which have a proven positive effect on mental well-being and productivity. They also give you some valuable “you time” to mentally prepare for or unwind from your work day.
Get up and move every half hour- You can undo some of the damage caused by hours of sitting by getting up and moving around, if only for a minute or two, twice an hour. You should also change position or move in your chair approximately every eight minutes.
Give yourself something to look forward to- Having nothing to look forward to leads to under-stimulation of the mesolimbic system; the portion of the brain that gives us a feeling of reward. Whether it’s a tasty but nutritious snack every couple of hours or listening to your favorite music, audiobooks or podcasts during breaks or on the commute home can help the day pass much more pleasantly and reduce your risk of workplace depression.