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This One Hack Can Instantly Relieve Anxiety & Make You More Productive

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June 29, 2022
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You may be familiar with the concept of the mind-body connection (just check out this piece on skin and mental health, for example), but did you know that your posture can also affect how you feel? It's a concept called postural theory, and manual therapist and movement coach Aaron Alexander, author of The Align Method, is especially passionate about the link between posture and mental health.

But healthy posture extends way beyond an aligned spine: When Alexander joined us on the mindbodygreen podcast, he shared a simple way you can instantly relieve anxiety and boost productivity—simply by adjusting your gaze. Find all the details below. 

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A simple hack to relieve anxiety and boost productivity.

Alexander explains that "your ocular tissue is essentially a continuation of your central nervous system, so the way that you use your eyes informs your autonomic nervous system." In other words: The way you use your eyes can inform your nervous system response. One example of this connection is how your pupils dilate when you're experiencing fight-or-flight1—physiologically, your body wants to increase the amount of light entering your eyes, which allows you to see the so-called threat more clearly. 

Similarly, your gaze can influence your mental and emotional state. "When you look down, you're sending the signal to your autonomic nervous system [that it's] time to get sleepy and just relax," says Alexander. Your body assumes you're going to wind down, and you experience less energy in preparation for rest.

That being said: When you want to feel more energetic, Alexander says all you have to do is raise your gaze: "When you're looking up, it's sending the signal that it's time to wake up, time to get creative, time to come up with ideas. You know, creative thoughts, energy," he says. Other experts back him up, too: Research shows that looking out at wide distances actually activates the parasympathetic nervous system2 and helps to reduce stress, increase creativity, and enhance problem-solving skills. 

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The takeaway.

The next time you're hoping to relieve anxiety and boost productivity, consider lifting your gaze and seeing if it helps. And if you're looking for more ways to hack your nervous system and feel less anxious, check out Alexander's tips here or tune in to his full podcast episode below.

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