Posted by: Jack Hope | Monday February 25, 2013

2013 Plan: Standing Against Depression

Component: Body

One ‘benefit’ of the experience of battling Clinical Depression and mental illness for me has been the development of a greater awareness of my overall health. Paired with a new strength to build good habits, I’ve been finding new ways to improve my health.

To date one of the biggest changes that I’ve made in this regard that has been more or less successful has been to take up running.

Now I’m going to tackle something new to increase my overall activity level.

One of the reasons I’ve decided to pursue this change has been the recent slew of articles grappling with this issue, particularly’s which pushed me over.

Sitting is destroying our health.

Before my most recent Depressive episode, like a lot of people, I had a desk job where I sat most of the time. Most of my adult jobs have been sitting in front of keyboards and screens.

And even now as I work towards recovery, a significant portion of my day is still me sitting in front of a keyboard and a screen.

Enter Lifehacker

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m getting some of my tips and ideas via the website Lifehacker and it didn’t take much googling before a result from them popped up.

Turns out a lot of people are improvising standing desks, given the obscene price of many professionally made varieties. I was able to set one up using my already existing desk and computer equipment for this experiment for about $30.o0.

I just had to be willing to brave Calgary’s Ikea.

That’s slightly easier said than done. I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to buy anymore Ikea furniture, instead trying to get things that last.

There’s also the question of all those social phobias that I’ve been dealing with. I considered asking either Andrew of Charlotte to accompany me but decided to tackle the  task myself. Turns out I was fussing about nothing, the place was all but deserted when I went.

So using a few simple components purchased from Ikea, random screws and a screwdriver from my Dad’s toolkit and the instructions I found at Lifehacker, I have constructed this:

My standing desk, built out of Ikea parts

My standing desk, built out of Ikea parts

Yup, this is how I spent my Friday evening.

A Time to Stand

Using the two monitors I have setup (one is actually a re-used television) I’m able to switch back and forth between standing and sitting. This is essential since I know myself well enough that I can’t just start standing for hours a day in one go.

So instead, I set myself the goal of standing for 15 minutes every hour for the first two weeks. I use the timer in my phone to keep track of both sitting and standing time.

I noticed right away that I was a lot more tempted to wander away during my standing periods. This might be a good thing for me in the long run, I’m probably spending too much time in front of my computer anyhow.

It also took some tweaking to get everything just right, especially since I’m quite a bit taller than the average person. Hence my monitor is propped on a stack of books.

I also tend to move my body when a song comes on that I like.

There’s an image for my readers: me standing at this contraption made up of Ikea parts typing out my posts and dancing to the music on the radio.

I might never be able to work in an ordinary office again. What a tragedy that would be.

Consider the Carpet

I live (and play on the computer) in the basement right now and it’s quite a nice basement but its still a basement. The room I am in started life as my Dad’s office and is carpeted with an industrial green carpet, with lousy padding.

That wasn’t a problem when I was sitting all day but now it’s proving to be somewhat problematic. Good shoes for standing becomes all important.

If I keep this up, long term, I will have to invest in proper standing equipment.

An Experiment in Progress

I’ve only been trying this now for the last week or so, but I’m already noticing many of the plusses and minuses of this arrangement for me.

Switching back and forth from sitting and standing is mildly annoying since it requires some moving about of some of my equipment (keyboard, mouse, etc) as well as shifting what I’m doing from one monitor to the next.

I also miss having the easy use of the two monitors, rather than using one at a time and find I’m still looking back and forth between both despite the height difference.

This is a make shift arrangement though, so difficulties like this are expected.

But I am enjoying the periods when I’m standing. I feel like I have more focus on what I’m working on and more energy. Some standing users have reported boosts in confidence, which I seem to also be having.

I also notice that when I sit down, I’m more likely to drift away from what I was doing. I’m more likely to go wander off to random web surfing and lose the focus I had.

Standing up again seems to send a signal to my brain to get back to work.

$30 Well Spent

This experiment has definitely been worth the money even if I don’t opt to carry on with standing. For a small investment I’ve been able to try out something which could have a positive effect on my health.

Personally, after about a week of trying this, I suspect that I will later on this year look at getting a desk that swings, allowing me to both stand and sit.

Too much standing can also be bad for a person’s health too.

So can spending too much time in front of the computer. I’m going to make an effort to go for more regular walks outdoors, even in this miserable winter. Adding more activity to my life is not a bad thing.

How do I know after only a short period of time though that I want to incorporate standing and use of a standing desk (or swing arm) into my work life?

Simple: I wrote this entire post during standing periods.

And it’s been one of the best writing experiences that I’ve had since I started this blog. Even though it was in short bursts (not my preferred method) I have felt really good about the entire process of writing this post. Better than I have about my writing in a very long time.

So I want the option to stand when working. I think that if I can stand 50% of the time and sit the other 50% of the time, I will feel a lot better about my personal health.

I have a suspicion that I may do some of my best work during my standing time.


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