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Episode 13: Peripheral Awareness: The Power of Seeing What You Aren’t Looking At

Video Highlights

Peripheral awareness is an awareness of everything you aren't looking at.
Training your peripheral awareness can help to improve balance, movement and pain
Your ability to sense what's around you helps with emotions, movement control and effective thinking
Increased awareness of peripheral fields makes you feel better by reducing tension and increasing energy!

Hi, everybody!

Dr. Cobb back again.

Today we are going to be talking about peripheral vision, or peripheral awareness. Peripheral awareness is basically an awareness of everything that you’re not looking at.

Interested in more vision training? Check out http://www.thevisiongym.com

In our courses, we say peripheral vision is “How well can you see what you’re not staring at?” and the idea is that whenever I’m looking at the camera, right now, I can also see the whole room around me. I can see the floor and I can see the walls and the ceiling and everything around me.

What’s happened in literally just the last few months, scientists have begun looking at portions of the brain that seem to correlate directly with peripheral vision, because we haven’t known how this thing worked for a long time. What we’ve known at Z-Health is that training our peripheral awareness seems to improve balance and movement and pain, but now, we’re learning a little bit more as to why.

What they’ve found is that your peripheral vision, your awareness of what’s around you in space, has a unique circuit in the brain and most interestingly to me, that circuit connects to a lot of other stuff in the brain. It connects to emotions, it connects to movement control, and also how you think.

Your ability to sense what’s around you has an immediate, direct correlation on what you’re feeling, how you’re moving and also how you respond to different situations. Most people, if they’ve ever been in a really anxious or tense situation, if they paid attention, would notice that their peripheral vision usually will shrink. That is called tunnel vision. What we say in Z-Health is that as your threats go up, you develop this tunnel vision effect, and as a result, life becomes a little bit more scary.

The researchers are specifically looking at peripheral awareness because of its impact on Alzheimer’s. What they’ve found is that the area of the brain that controls this peripheral vision process is one of the first things to deteriorate when people have Alzheimer’s disease, and what we see with Alzheimer’s are people that have cognitive impairment, they move poorly and they fall a lot, and all of those things can be directly correlated to how well you are able to see what’s around you.

Four prairie dogs looking in different directions.

What do we do about that? Really, really simple drill. You have probably seen some of our other posts where we talk about relaxation and doing a body scan, but what I am going to talk about today is how to begin paying attention to your peripheral fields of vision, because this is one of the biggest things that we teach our athletes.

What I am going to have you do is, I want you to stand or sit comfortably, take two or three breaths in and out; in through your nose, out through your mouth, really focusing on the exhalation part and just try to relax.

If you’ve seen the blog where I talk about doing a body scan, do a quick body scan and basically all that means is pay attention, starting in your feet, working all the way up through your body, thinking about the front and the back and the sides and notice where you have tension and try to let it go.

From there, I want you to pick a target to look at. Look at the wall in front of you, maybe focus on a picture, whatever that you can see clearly, and then as you look at it, I want you to gradually and comfortably try to see what’s above you without moving your eyes up and see what’s to your right and left, without moving your eyes right and left. Keep staring at the target in front of you and try to see and pay attention to everything that is around you. That is called your peripheral field.

What you’ll notice is if you take your hands out and you move them a little bit, you should still be able to see that movement. Your peripheral field of vision is really good at picking up motion, and so one of the things we do to challenge our athletes often is we have them take their arms out until they can’t see the motion and then bring it in until they can, and then over time, we try to have them expand their ability to pick up that movement in each of these different fields, out right and left and high and low.

If you want to give this a shot, try it. What you’ll typically notice is that simply becoming more aware of your peripheral fields makes you feel better. Very often, you’ll get a little bit more relaxed. Your breathing will get more comfortable and maybe a little deeper and overall, your body tension goes down. If that is the case for you, this may be something you want to include in your daily work.

What you’re going to find is that you spend a bunch of time really, really focused at your computer, on phone calls, thinking hard. Every time you give yourself a break during the day, not only do you need to move your eyes around and do some recovery for the eye strain that you feel, but also, you want to do an awareness awakening.

You’re just going to stand, pay attention and pay attention to your peripheral vision, your peripheral awareness.

As you expand that, it’s going to have a huge impact on how much tension, how much energy you feel and also, like I said, as we’re learning, it may have some protective benefits for how we think and basically how we control our emotions throughout the day as well.

There you go. A little bit of a tidbit on peripheral vision with a couple of ideas on training it.

If you have questions about this, let us know.

We look forward to talking to you again next week.

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