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How the Angle of Our Gaze Affects Our Mood and Inner Monologue

Where are you looking?

Let’s talk about the angle of our gaze.

When you’re walking down the street are you staring at a screen or watching the world around you? Are you counting the sidewalk cracks or are you making eye-contact and nodding to those you pass? When you’re in a fitness class is your focal point your neon sneakers or straight ahead of you?

For most of us, we’re looking down more often than not, and it can be for many different reasons. Maybe you’re looking down because you have social anxiety and walking through a crowd is challenging to say the least. Maybe you’re looking down because you’re just not in a people mood that day. Or maybe you’re caught up on your phone, texting or scrolling through social media. In today’s world, we can be sitting, standing, or walking, and it can be intentional or unintentional, but chances are we’re looking down, and this downward angle of our gaze is having a domino effect you may not even be aware of.

Our body follows our gaze, so if we’re looking down, our body is naturally going to curl in on itself. The chest goes heavy, the back will round, shoulders will hunch, head and neck will droop. This curled in posture actually reduces the flow of oxygen in the body because the diaphragm and other abdominal organs are compressed, so we’re going to feel like we have less energy and it will require more physical and mental effort to do basic tasks. Dr. Artour Rakhimov addresses this topic in an article on how slouching can lead to lowered blood oxygen levels.*

There’s also a good chance this reduced energy will result in a lowered mood, which can trigger depression and negative thinking patterns. San Francisco State University conducted a study** to measure the effect of body posture on energy level. Participants were asked to rate their mood before and after either walking in a slouched position or skipping. Those participants asked to slouch experienced a decrease in energy level as opposed to those asked to skip, who had a significant increase in energy.

So in a world where most of our time is spent looking down, how can we change? It’s impossible to change something we’re not aware of, so the first step is to become aware of when you are looking down and then purposefully lift your gaze and notice the automatic lift in your chest. Once you become aware of this shift, it can translate into other aspects of your life. When you’re doing squats at the gym or going for a run, focus on a point in front of or slightly above your natural gaze, rather than on the ground. When you’re rushing from one meeting to the next, actively notice at least 3 things around you such as the painting hanging on the wall or the color of your coworker’s tie. Lifting your gaze doesn’t have to become this huge ordeal, it only requires little shifts, but if you put in the active effort, the results will be monumental.

I challenge you to purposefully look up for just one week and see how your mood and overall affect will elevate simply because of where you are looking. #lookupfeelupchallenge

*https://www.normalbreathing.org/stop-slouching-natural-treat/
**https://biofeedbackhealth.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/a-published-increase-or-decrease-depression.pdf

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