When you feel really worried about something you’ve probably experienced tunnel vision – when your brain can only focus on one threat even your vision narrows. The opposite is also true. When we’re in a relaxed state our peripheral vision (PV) widens because it’s connected to our parasympathetic nervous system. When we’re calm, we can take in a bigger picture and absorb more of what’s around us. That’s why athletes hone their Peripheral Vision to gain a competitive advantage in fast paced sports. So by tuning into our peripheral vision we slow the world around us and create calm and a broader perspective.
Not only that, as we age we lose about 1–3 degrees from the edges of our visual field every 10 years. By 70–80 years of age, most of us have lost 20–30 degrees from the edges of our visual field. This is partly why we fall more as we get older. It’s seen as ‘part of the ageing process’ but there are lots of exercises we can do to improve our peripheral vision.
Here’s a couple of exercises to try:
Stand or sit comfortably and take three deep breaths, relax into the exhale, do a body scan and release any tight muscles.
Pick a target to look at – a picture, something you can look at clearly. Now imagine that’s the centre of a clock face, without moving your eyes what can you see at 12 – take in the shapes and colours for a moment, now without moving your eyes what can you see at 3, take a breath, now 6, breathe and now 12. Finally what can you see at both 3 and 9 simultaneously?
- Maintain focus on that same spot from above, again keeping your head still, bring your fingers up to your sides.
- Move your arms up and down forward and back while you wiggle your fingers until they go out of your vision range then come back in.
- The idea is that you tune into your peripheral range and train the brain to make the field wider with practice.
When you next take a break incorporate a few deep breaths and a peripheral vision exercise and just notice how you feel before and after.
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