Blinking Your Way to a Brighter Future
A Community Consciousness and Vision Health Essay.
Blinking is like weight training for your eyes. It also helps with eye-brain coordination and the brain-body connection. This is particularly good for athletes or people with movement disorders or chronic pain.
The most important part is to hold a question in your mind. Without the question your brain gets tired of connecting and gives up. I have been using it with groups of athletes that I speak too and with individual clients, as well as doing this exercise myself. I found the idea for this exercise from Nike. They have a pair of goggles, of specialized goggles, that elite athletes use in order to speed up their perception, their ability to take in information quickly.
With this exercise you are going to blink and look around as you are blinking, and you’re just going to do it for a couple of minutes.
As you’re looking around and blinking always have a question in your mind. You can do this at anytime guiding your own visualization with questions.
Look around the room and notice what you notice about the colors, the shapes, how bright it is. Notice any sounds that you hear, how your body feels, how your head and neck and your eyes feel. Just notice all of these things. And then we’ll start the blinking. And for this exercise great to walk around. So, as you walking around blinking your eyes, ask yourself a question.
What am I seeing that’s red? Our eyes pick up red really quickly. That is why stop signs are red and why red lights mean stop, is because our visual system is set up so that we can pick up light that is red more quickly, we can grab it with our eyes, we can let it come to our eyes more quickly.
Just notice everything, as you’re blinking, so you’re walking around blinking, and if you want to sit and do it that’s fine. But blinking your eyes, and noticing anything in the room anywhere around you that is red. And now notice what is green. Are there any items around you in the room, in the space where you are that are green? And now notice whether there are any books. Do you have any books in the room around you, or in the space around you? How many books are there? And are all the books on a book shelf or are they on a table? Where are the books? Just notice where they are.
And now notice different shapes. Do you see anything that is square? The whole time you are blinking your eyes. Do you notice anything that is square, or do you notice any chairs? How many chairs are there around you that you can see as you are blinking? Now, you can stop blinking and just rest for a moment and just look around notice what has changed. Does the room see brighter? Do the colors seem more vibrant? Do you notice anything that you didn’t notice before? Write down what has changed during that exercise.
When we take in visual information more quickly our nervous system relaxes and drains the flooding overwhelm.
As you blink for a minute or so, ask yourself a question like:
what do I see that is red?
What do I see that is round?
How many horses do I see?
Blinking Can Help Speed Up Visual Processing in People with Brain Injuries
Blink your eyes as you look at what is around you in the periphery of your vision. Look straight ahead as you blink but try to see what is on the outer edge, sides of your vision or above and below you. This exercise can increase the speed with which you see and interpret the visual information you see.
A 2017 study in the Journal of Neurotrauma suggests that the peripheral vision reaction time indirectly measures white matter integrity in the posterior corpus callosum [connection between right and left hemispheres of the brain]. This is a brain region frequently damaged by mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). (Womack, K. B., C. Paliotta, et al. (2017). “Measurement of Peripheral Vision Reaction Time Identifies White Matter Disruption in Patients with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.” J Neurotrauma 34(8): 1539–1545.
Within seven days after the injury, patients received an MRI scan and a battery of neuropsychological tests. Nine uninjured control subjects received similar testing. The patients 18–50 years of age were included if they had a post-resuscitation Glasgow Coma Scale >13 and an injury mechanism compatible with mild traumatic brain injury. Healthy controls were either age- and gender-matched family members of the TBI patients or healthy volunteers.
Researchers found that the patients with the worst white matter levels had the worst test scores and the patients with the most mild white matter deficits had the best test scores. “Patients could be stratified on the basis of crossed-uncrossed difference on the Stroop 1, Controlled Oral Word Association Test, and the obsessive-compulsive component of the Basic Symptom Inventory tests.”
Reverse engineering the Journal of Neurotrauma article indicates that exercises that increase peripheral vision and exercises that speed up reaction time may encourage white matter integrity and brain healing.
Blinking in Athletes
Speed up reaction times and the speed at which you take in information by doing this blinking exercise while practicing your sport. A basketball player can blink as they are dribbling, shouting, or passing the ball back and forth. A soccer player can pass the ball while running down the field dribbling the ball and blinking. A golfer may blink while looking at the hole, then the ball , then hitting the ball.