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The healing power of peripheral vision

john graham


This weeks article is a fairly short one as rather than read about it I want you to experience it.  If you’re someone that could benefit from feeling more calm, quieting the mind or just allowing yourself to perform at your best more often this is for you.  If you’re also someone that can ‘never find the time to do this’ then this experiment will remove that excuse for ever.  No more excuses…

Its inspired by a train trip I had back from Dublin the other day.  It’s a 3 hours journey with a fair amount of commuter coming and going.    It allowed me some concentrated people watching time.

Now on a recent advert for travelling by train the journey looked like bliss, for the person looking for the ultimate in rest.  Two guys looking relaxed, smiling in doze, stretching and just basically looking like they were having the best chill time ever.

This advert differed from those around me (and OK this includes me too).  Most people were frowning & looking a bit tense.  Focusing hard on either their laptops, phones or books.  Those that weren’t, were fairly regularly checking the status of their phones, never a casual relaxed pick up and gaze but more a snatch and intense stare and whap back down.   Over and over building the habit, locking the feeling.

If we take a step back and think about these dudes on the train most of us are living this way for the majority of the day.

One of the things that we have learnt to use as we have developed as humans is foveal vision.   Foveal vision is central focused vision.  In the western world we use this, a lot.  Where we focus directly in front of us and try & notice all the details.  Examples of this would be at our desks using the computer, reading mobiles, laptops, magazines etc 

Using foveal vision is linked to the arousal of the sympathetic nervous system.  This is the part of the autotonic nervous system that is linked with fight or flight, stress and producing chemicals in the body such as cortisol and adrenaline (and people wonder why they cant sleep at night after watching telly or reading in bed).

The exercise I would like you to experiment with over the next few days (until the habit it built) is to use your peripheral vision more often.   When using peripheral vision we are connecting to the parasympathetic part of the autotonic nervous system.  This is associated with relaxation, calm, healing.  Peripheral vision is what we use when we are in ‘the zone’ foveal is tunnel vision when things are more forced.

If you are in peripheral vision state it’s almost impossible to feel anxiety or stress.

So rather than moving from one foveal vision task to the next I’d challenge you to do this little experiment over the next days.


Any time you find yourself reading from your phone (or if you prefer using the computer) :

  • Recognise that when ever you are reading from your phone you are using foveal vision. (and that’s OK as long as your aware).
  • Once you have finished using the phone take a big deep breath then….
  • Keep focusing on the screen but allow you eyes to soften and relax.  After a short period of time you will notice your field of vision will start to spread.
  • Be aware of the colors shades and shapes above and below left and right.  Not looking direct at them but just having a gentle awareness.
  • Do this for as long as you fancy while noticing how you feel in body and mind.
  • Repeat each time you read from your phone (or every hour if stuck in front of a computer or book).

So give this a try…Its chilling in small bursts, easy to fit into anyones day, no excuses! 

Id love to hear how you get on with this, its made a huge difference to my life and I’m expecting the same for you.