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Walk with your eyes

In the 90s, Dr. Francine Shapiro noticed as a result of going for a walk, that scanning the landscape with your eyes makes you feel calmer and less anxious. As a result, she came up with a treatment for trauma, EMDR, in which a therapist uses hand movements to make a person move their eyes, which makes it easier to heal the trauma. And it is that eye movement which we do naturally when going for a walk.

This looking forward is called a ‘panoramic vision’, because we absorb the entire scene we see. It’s like an optical flow that tells us where we are going and the best way to navigate. Our retinas have miniature brain cells that calm anxiety and fear while we use a panoramic vision. Optical flow calms the amygdala, the brain’s threat detector, which helps us to calm down.

Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman believes that, as hunter-gatherers, the brain evolved to navigate and search for water and animals calmly, switching to a focal vision (which is more demanding and more stressful) only if necessary. Of course, today we use focal vision more in many of our daily tasks, depriving our eyes and brains of the panoramas that our ancestors enjoyed.

Therefore, we have to walk with your eyes, thereby using the brain cells in the back of the retinas more. Whether following a new route or a familiar route, it helps to pay attention to the entire scene and our entire environment. If we turn off our phones and lift our heads up we will notice more things, the weather, the flora, the fauna or the architecture. Looking at the landscape with a horizontal circular movement induces a feeling of calm. It’s also important to take care of your peripheral vision, because it decreases with age if we do not use it, and walking helps restore it.

So, next time you go for a walk, be sure to look at the views!

Source: 52 ways to walk -Annabel Streets – Bloomsbury Publishing