Next time you walk outdoors for a breath of fresh air, pause for a moment and look upwards. Raising your head to take in the sky can provide a moment of inner calm and a boost to your mood.
It’s also simply a great way to stretch your neck muscles which may have become stiffened during the repetitive actions of the working day.
How we focus on the down for most of the day
We spend most of our day looking downwards and often the highest our gaze will reach is to the horizontal. Much of the time we are intensely focused on what is in front of us, be it on other people, the work computer, mobile phone or the television.
If you work for the NHS, chances are you literally look down on other people for much of the day. That’s because many of your patients will be resting on a hospital bed while they receive treatment or are recuperating.
The psychology behind an upwards gaze
Neuroscientist Fred Pavic has published books and papers to suggest that humans have two distinct visual systems – one processes the lower field of vision and the other specialises in taking in the view above the horizon.
He goes on to argue that raising our eyes upwards is strongly linked to higher-order thinking, abstract and creative thought and the transmission of dopamine – also known as the “feel-good hormone”.
Looking up at the sky offers us an escape, an expansive vista that leads us to imagine and dream. It encourages us to think beyond our grounded reality and the four walls in which we spend much of our time. Focusing upwards lets in a new perspective and a sense of awe, wonder and awareness.
The same is true of stargazing at the night sky. But during the daytime hours, looking up also lets in lots of natural light. That in itself is linked to a lifting in our frame of mind and a boost to serotonin, another mood-enhancing brain chemical.
So, next time you take a break during a busy day, or simply step outside for a moment, raise your head and take in a moment of peace and reflection to marvel at the vast blue expanse above you. Suddenly, your earthly worries will evaporate for a minute or two.
If some blue sky thinking would brighten your mood, a hike above the horizon will lift your spirits, or camping beneath the stars will restore some sparkle, then why not take a look at our latest Go Outdoors promo codes, Blacks discount vouchers or Millets deals.