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Ditch Computer Eye Strain With These 8 Free Apps

Ditch Computer Eye Strain With These 8 Free Apps

Computer eye strain is an unfortunately common part of 21st-century life that can do long-term damage to your vision, not to mention causing sore eyes and headaches in the short term. Recent studies have shown the bluish glow of our screens also reduces the body’s melatonin levels that we need to naturally sleep, causing people to stay up later and have more difficulty falling asleep when they do go to bed.

Doctors often recommend taking breaks from looking at your screen to prevent eye strain, but not everyone is so good at sticking to schedules on their own. Here are eight free web or mobile apps to help keep your eyes healthy and pain-free!

1. Awareness (Mac, Windows)

awareness
    image source: Cult of Mac

    Awareness is a free app for Mac and Windows that gets you to take regular breaks without getting in the way. It’s super inconspicuous as far as these apps go; it sits on your menu bar while you go about your business, quietly counting the minutes until your next small break. You set the time limit for chunks of uninterrupted work yourself, as well as how long your breaks are. Once you’ve been at the computer for your set amount of minutes, Awareness plays the steady tone of a Tibetan singing bowl to let you know it’s time for a break. And it actually makes sure you take that break by monitoring your app/browser usage for those minutes, but doesn’t lock you out. This is probably the simplest, easiest app to use if you’re looking for break reminders that get you to actually do them without being intrusive.

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    2. F.lux (Mac, Windows, Linux, and iPhone)

    flux2
      image source: AddictiveTips

      I installed this app a couple years ago on my laptop and have used it ever since. F.lux adjusts the glow of your monitor based on the time of day; not just brightness, but tint as well. Without that glaring blue glow, I actually have to go to sleep at a reasonable hour because I get sleepy. Which, ya know, is supposed to happen! F.lux has an incredibly detailed list of research on this issue here. It’s an easy install and it runs on a bunch of operating systems. This is probably my #1 recommendation from this list.

      3. ProtectYourVision (Chrome, Firefox, Safari app)

        One of the most popular apps out there is ProtectYourVision. You can customize its break plan, though the default “20-20-20” plan is a commonly used technique with many supporters. ProtectYourVision beeps when it’s time for your break, and temporarily blacks out your screen for those few minutes. So, it’s a little disruptive in that way, but you can choose not to take a break when prompted, meaning the screen won’t black out until you say you’re on your break. If you really need to, you can override the break-time blackout as well. Plus, the app gives you suggestions for eye exercises to do during your break, and it has an adorable robot mascot.

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        4. Twilight (Android)

        twilight

          Since F.lux has a version for iOS but not Android, I found this app that has largely positive reviews from its users. Twilight also operates based on research done on the effects of blue-tinted light on the circadian rhythm and overall quality of sleep. The developers also cited special interest in research showing people who used a tablet or smartphone for a couple hours before bed fell asleep about an hour later than those who did not. So if you have a mobile device that runs on Android and want to employ this technology to protect your eyes and stop having trouble getting properly sleepy, get Twilight.

          5. Time Out (Mac)

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          timeout

            Time Out is exclusive to Mac and is a good app for those who aren’t sure how to space out their breaks. It gives you a set break plan that involves 50 minute chunks of working with 10 minute breaks, as well as “micro” breaks throughout your work time, 10 seconds every 10 minutes. (They can still be customized, however.) The micro breaks are helpful for those who find themselves unintentionally tensing up as they work, giving you a brief but consistent reminder to relax your muscles and adjust your posture. If you only want one kind of break, you can disable either of them. The breaks will fade your screen to let you know it’s time, and then fade back in when the break is over.

            6. eyeCare (Chrome app)

            eyes

              If you like your apps connected to your browser for a little extra convenience, eyeCare is a Chrome extension to help remind you to take those eye-resting breaks. Like ProtectYourVision, this app recommends the 20-20-20 plan, but you can of course customize your schedule. Regularly schedule breaks for your eyes is the most frequently recommended method for preventing eye strain. The extension also gives you instructions for eye exercises. It’s a one-click install, and it has a 4.5/5 star review by users.

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              7. Nocturne (Mac)

              nocturne

                This is another Mac-only app with a unique approach. Nocturne is an older display-altering app to reduce eye strain, but it does so by giving you options to change your display via using a monochrome scheme as pictured above, inverting colors, disabling shadow effects, and adjusting tints. You can adjust screen brightness as well. Again, it’s a somewhat dated app, but it is free and offers a unique approach to reducing eye strain at night.

                8. Eye Pro (Windows)

                  Eye Pro is a Windows app that seeks to reduce eye strain but also focuses on keeping your eyes properly moisturized. Not satisfied with only preventing eye strain, the developers designed the app to get you to blink more while at the computer. Research shows that our blink rate tends to decrease significantly when we use a computer. Eye Pro displays occasional notices encouraging you to rest your eyes and blink to restore natural moisture. There are short and long breaks, which you can skip if you need to, and plenty of tips for eye exercises and overall protection.

                  Featured photo credit: working in the dark/George Whitaker via flic.kr

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                  Last Updated on July 8, 2020

                  18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

                  18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

                  The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

                  1. Understand Yourself Better

                  Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

                  Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

                  2. Keep Track of Small Changes

                  I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

                  Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

                  3. Become Aware of What Matters

                  As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

                  You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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                  4. Boost Creativity

                  The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

                  When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

                  You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

                  5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

                  A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

                  Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

                  6. Process Life Experiences

                  When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

                  Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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                  7. Stress Relief

                  In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

                  Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

                  8. Provide Direction

                  Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

                  One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

                  9. Solve Problems

                  Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

                  Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

                  When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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                  10. Find Relief From Fighting

                  Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

                  Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

                  11. Find Meaning in Life

                  Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

                  12. Allow Yourself to Focus

                  Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

                  13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

                  When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

                  14. Let the Past Go

                  I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

                  15. Allow Freedom

                  Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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                  16. Enhance Your Career

                  Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

                  Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

                  17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

                  All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

                  18. Catalog Your Life for Others

                  No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

                  We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

                  Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

                  Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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