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Do you ever catch yourself staring throughout the day? Do you ever wonder why you are staring? Let’s take a moment to explore the phenomenon of staring.
Staring is one of the most common poor vision habits. The eyes stop moving and lock onto one object. Once the stare has taken hold it can be difficult to shake loose. Staring is often accompanied by holding the breath. When affected by stress the breath is one of the first functions that gets unconsciously altered. The breath becomes shallow, short and sporadic. When the lungs lose mobility so do the eyes. Often when the eyes stop moving the mind wanders off somewhere else. Staring can be brought on by excessive thinking or worrying. Staring can also come about from boredom, fatigue, or disinterest in where you are or what you are doing. Many people use the act of staring as an escape mechanism to leave the present moment behind and either venture into past memories or future imaginations.
You may wonder what’s so bad about staring anyway? Well, normal relaxed eyes vibrate 60 to 70 times per second. These vibrations are very subtle shifts that may not even be felt or noticed. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the eyes are only at rest when in movement. When we stare, we are restricting the natural movements and vibrations of the eyes. In addition, the fovea centralis in the back of the retina, the small point that gives us our center of sight, is stimulated by movement. When the eyes stay still and stare, our central detail vision begins to shut down. Only through movement does the vision turn on and stay sharp. Staring also weakens the muscles in and around the eye. All six extrinsic muscles lose their flexibility and functioning abilities when the are not used, which in turn can lead to refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, glaucoma, cataract and more. The ciliary muscles lose their ability to change the shape of the lens when the eyes fix on one distance for long periods of time. Staring is sometimes associated with concentration or focus, but this is an incorrect assumption. Since rapid eye movements correlate with higher brain activity and memory accessibility, it proves that the more we stare the less we focus.
So what can we do to drop this bad habit of staring? By becoming aware of the stare, bringing attention to the stare, and picking up on the patterns of staring. Realize what you are staring at and why. Ask yourself these questions: Do I stare at work? Do I stare at home? Do I stare while I watch TV? Do I stare at the person I am talking to? Am I more interested in the past or the future than the present? Begin to catch yourself staring and figure out why it happened. Luckily, there are lots of ways to break the staring habit, and here are a few options.
When you catch yourself staring, close your eyes and visualize what you were thinking about. This way you can block out distractions and sink more deeply into whatever thought made you stare in the first place. While thinking with your eyes closed, you will notice that your eyes begin moving and stop staying still. You have successfully broken the stare. Once you feel finished with the stare-producing thought, you may open your eyes back up. Another great habit to adopt that replaces the stare habit is to trace the outlines of objects with your nose. You can trace the perimeter of anything and everything with your nose… doors, windows, houses, cars, faces, clouds, words, letters. By doing this you are keeping the eyes in constant motion and therefore in a more relaxed state. If the source of your staring is from fatigue, try closing your eyes or palming your eyes more often to relax them before they get tired. If the source of your staring is from resisting the present moment, try saying or thinking to yourself “I am right here right now.” Bring yourself back to the moment and analyze what you may be resisting. If your job requires you to keep your focus at a fixed distance, try to keep the eyes in movement at that fixed distance and also make sure to let the eyes look up at different distances frequently. A simple way to break up the stare is to push all the air out of the lungs through the mouth. This expulsion allows a greater intake of oxygen on the following inhale through the nose. Bringing wider movements into the lungs will not only encourage movement of the eyes but will initiate subtle movements throughout the entire body by increasing blood circulation and lymph flow.
Since we live in a society that encourages and sometimes even demands that we stare by keeping the eyes fixed at a certain distance on a computer screen or paperwork, it is very important to be aware of the stare and learn ways to break the habit. There are many ways we can render these close-up activities harmless to our eyes by maintaining proper vision habits and avoiding staring. More often than not, artificial lenses promote the habit of staring. The eyes want to move freely all day and night. You may be surprised to see what happens when you let them!