In an interview with Dr. Andrew Huberman on Mark Bell’s Power Project, the idea behind Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing was brought up. This neurophysiological process occurs when the eyes are moved from side-to-side (laterally) for about 15-30 seconds.
To quote Dr. Huberman:
This process has been shown to reduce the activity of the amygdala, one of the primary threat detectors and fear receptors in the brain.
When walking, it’s natural for humans (from an evolutionary and adaptive perspective) to reflexively move their eyes from left to right in order to survey their surroundings, especially in an area that has not been previously visited.
This physical action results in both calmness and focus before doing a task, or needing extra focus and motivation after waking up.
Interestingly enough, blind people employ the same neurological mechanism by listening carefully for sounds from either stereophonic direction — targeting the same neural pathway that suppresses amygdala activity as well.
I usually do multi-planar eye movements (lateral, vertical, circular, etc.) as part of my morning routine for optic muscle health. This new bit of knowledge confirms that they provide mental and psychological benefits as well.