Why is looking into the middle distance better for our eyes?
When I moved from the city of Sydney to our patch of green in country New Zealand, one of the very first things I noticed was how happy my eyes were.
It wasn’t like I had ever thought they were unhappy before. I mean, unhappy eyes? Really?
It was as if I could feel them relax. De-stress, if you will… Kind of crazy. and at the same time, very cool.
I put this ‘happy eyes’ situation down to our move from big city apartment living to waking up to lots (and lots) of green and a middle-distance view. In fact, it made such an impact on me I took a photo from our patio almost every Sunday morning for our first year here to track the changing view…
See how it makes your eyes feel…
Anecdotally, I already knew that looking into the middle distance is good for your eyes, but I wanted to understand why that was.
It turns out that looking into the middle distance is better for your eyes because it allows your eye muscles to relax. When you focus on something up close, your eye muscles have to work harder to keep the image in focus. This can cause eye strain, headaches, and even blurred vision. Looking into the middle distance gives our eye muscles a break and helps to keep our vision healthy.
Isn’t that a good reason to think about how much time you are spending on your devices?
In addition to reducing eye strain, there are other scientifically proven benefits of looking into the middle distance. Here are a couple more:
- Improves focus: When you look at something close up, your eyes have to focus on a small area. This can make it difficult to focus on something else. Looking into the middle distance helps to train your eyes to focus on a wider area, which can improve your overall focus.
- Reduces eye fatigue: When you look at something for a long time, your eyes get tired. This is because your eye muscles have to work hard to keep the image in focus. Looking into the middle distance gives our eyes a break and helps to reduce eye fatigue.
If you’re anything like me, and spend a fair bit of time looking at close-up objects – I’m talking computer screens or smartphones or books – it’s important to take breaks and look into the middle distance regularly to protect your eye health. Every 20-30 minutes is ideal. Yep – I did say every 20-30 minutes! This will help to reduce the aforementioned eye strain, headaches, and other problems associated with close-up work.
Double down on middle-distance eye health hack and spend some time outside. In nature.
Unsurprisingly, there have been a number of studies that have shown how spending time in nature can benefit your eyes. Here are some of them:
- A study published in the journal “Nature” in 2016 found that children who spent more time outdoors were less likely to develop myopia (shortsightedness). The study, which was conducted in Singapore, found that children who spent at least two hours every day outdoors were 23% less likely to develop myopia than children who spent less than one hour outdoors each day.
- A study published in the journal “Ophthalmology” in 2017 found that people who spent more time in nature had a lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. The US-based study found that people who spent at least two hours per day in nature had a 36% lower risk of developing AMD than people who spent less than one hour per day in nature. Those morning walks on the beach are serving me in more ways than I realise!
- Another Chinese study published in the journal “Environmental Science & Technology” in 2018 found that exposure to natural light can help to improve visual function in people with age-related macular degeneration. The study found that people with AMD who were exposed to natural light for at least two hours per day had a significant improvement in their visual function compared to people with AMD who were not exposed to natural light.
Moral of the story? If you’re looking for ways to improve your eye health, getting outside and enjoying the natural world is a great place to start. When you’re out enjoying blue space and green space, you are naturally engaging in middle-distance lookings.
Of course, spending time in nature is also a great way to relax, de-stress, and improve your overall health, too. Kind of a no-brainer, innit?