Los Angeles is a vibrant, diverse, dynamic city. Urban living in Los Angeles is also crowded, polluted and noisy.
“It is overstimulating,” said Camille Dieterle, OTD, OTR/L, assistant professor of clinical occupational therapy in the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. “Overstimulation can make people feel tired, stressed, overwhelmed, cranky and irritable.”
But for those who love to, or have to, make L.A. their home, there are ways to stay mentally and physically fit in this urban jungle, say USC experts. Here are five tips for urban living:
Take a break
“Anywhere that you can,” says Dieterle, try to diminish that sensory overload. For example, does the TV really need to be blaring 24/7? Do you have to schedule appointments back-to-back or could you give yourself a 15-minute break in between them? Meditating or breathing deeply for a couple of minutes makes a difference, too, she said.
A park, a tree outside your window, even a potted plant — they nourish the soul. “Getting out and experiencing whatever green is available … there is a whole body of research about the benefits of doing that,” said Travis Longcore, PhD, assistant professor of architecture, spatial sciences and biological sciences. “You are captivated by nature in a way that is effortless and allows your mind to relax and recover.” The result is that you return to your daily activities refreshed, calm and creative.
Get some shuteye
And do it in the dark. Not only is light distracting, it can interfere with the body’s circadian rhythms. Blue light, in particular, convinces the body that it’s daytime. Longcore collaborates with the makers of F.lux, an app that limits the blue light coming out of a device’s screen at night (Apple has a version called Night Shift). And it’s not just about how well-rested you feel tomorrow; research shows that light exposure during the night can boost cancer risk. Good blackout window shades or an eye mask should help, as can earplugs.
Exercise is good for both body and mind. “We’re made to move,” explained Ian Culbertson, a lecturer in the Department of Physical Education of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. A run around the track or an hour of yoga is great, but you can also fit exercise into your day in smaller doses. For example, both Dieterle and Culbertson like to take phone meetings on the hoof, so they can walk and talk at the same time.
The parts of urban living associated with pollution from automobiles and shipping are also the ones associated with high cancer risk, cautions Longcore. If you can’t afford to live and work in a place with decent air, he suggested, keep your windows closed and invest in a good air filtration system, if it’s within your means. And though exercise is good, don’t do it next to a congested freeway.
A brief escape from urban living to head to the mountains or coast is even better, Culbertson added.
— Amber Dance