Our vision can be focused in two ways – either foveal or peripheral.
Foveal vision is central focused vision. We use this a lot for example, to stare at our computer screen or our mobile phone, when driving, talking to someone, watching TV, reading a book, etc.
Foveal vision is linked to arousal of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) – the part of the ‘involuntary’ or autonomic nervous system (ANS) associated with activity, adrenaline and the ‘fight or flight’ stress response. You’ve probably noticed that when you’re in danger your focus narrows to take in only the person, situation, thing that’s threatening your wellbeing.
Peripheral vision is the field of vision you have that’s broader and, without moving your head, you’re able to notice, what is to your left and right, and above and below.
Peripheral vision is associated with arousal of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) – the part of the nervous system associated with relaxation, calmness and healing.
When we consciously shift into peripheral vision we can switch off the stress response because, either the SNS is on and, the PNS is off, or vice versa. Both systems can’t be on at the same time.
So shifting your focus from fovial (tunnel vision) to peripheral vision is a quick and simple way to shift your state when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. You are sending a non-conscious message to your survival system that you are safe. There are no threats in your immediate environment.
And when you combine peripheral vision with an abdominal breathing technique like the 7/11 breathing technique you are powerfully flicking the fight or flight off switch!
Discover Your Peripheral Vision
Get comfortable, and then find a point on the wall to focus on, which is straight in front of you and slightly above your eye level. Simply continue to look at that point in soft focus, noticing everything about that point.
After a while you may find that the rest of the room gets a bit fuzzy or hazy and you get a kind of tunnel vision.
Now gradually become aware of the area immediately around this point, to the sides and slightly above and below Then become aware of the area a little further out … until you broaden out your field of vision and your field of vision can get wider and wider … Until you’re aware of all that is around you, in a way that means you could see your fingers wriggling at the sides of your head if you were holding your hands up … and that is the periphery of your vision.
And notice that you can extend your awareness all the way around behind you … of course, not as if you can see behind you, but your senses can feel aware of all that is around you, now.
And you may have noticed that your breathing has slowed down a little … maybe the muscles of your face have relaxed … your jaw is perhaps relaxing too … and you can help them along as much as you like.
And as you stay there for a little while longer … you can really enjoy that sense of slowing down, inside, now.
You might find that your hands begin to get warm … or it might be that you simply feel a sense of overall calmness and ease that comes from helping your body to … calm you down … now … and slow your breathing down … and even your heartbeat, slowing down, now.
And your mind and body and emotions can come back into balance….
And now, as you realise you can easily practice this whenever you like … at home or at work … you can come back to normal conscious awareness now … still relaxed but also alert and energised, ready for the rest of your day.
The Benefits of Practicing Peripheral Vision
You experience less stress! It is very difficult for your fight or flight response to stay activated when you are breathing deeply into your abdomen and you shift your eyes to peripheral vision.
When you’re in peripheral vision you’re really relaxing, your mind is clear, thinking flows and you really can be relaxed and refreshed. Just imagine how many times you could benefit on a day-today basis from being in a relaxed, centred, calm, yet focused state rather than stressed and anxious.
Quite simply, learning to shift into peripheral vision and being able to maintain that state over time is one of the best things you can do to enhance your health, increase clarity of thinking, creatively solve problems, and experience an overall sense of well-being.
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REMEMBER – “When you change your mind you change your life.”
Tony helps people of all ages live their lives free of unnecessary stress, anxiety and depression, and be happier, healthier and more fulfilled.