"> Chapter 10: Habits and Exercises

Chapter 10: Habits and Exercises


The blink is the lowering of the upper lid and takes place every three or four seconds. It is not a shutting of the eyes, but rather a letting the upper lid drop of its own accord, more like a flicker. The best thing is to watch someone with perfect eyes and see how they blink. It should not be actually noticeable, but observed when looked for.

This means that when reading or doing any near work the eyes should blink once every line or two.

To be sure of having the blink muscle in good order it is a good practice to blink, while counting, loo times, rhythmically, quickly, but lightly.


This is a closing and tightening up of the eyes, raising the cheeks also. It brings the forehead down and releases congestion. If the eyes are inflamed, or there is high blood pressure, or the eyes are very short-sighted, this should not be done, but in all other cases nothing but benefit can accrue. About four squeezes at one time are enough, but they should not be quick squeezes, but take two or three seconds to do.


Do not raise the forehead. Do not frown. When washing the face, or creaming it, pull the scalp forward with the fingers placed on the forehead where the hair joins it and about two or three inches apart. Then massage the forehead for a minute or less, with a downward and outward motion. Stimulate the forehead just above the eyebrows by deep massage. Do not massage the eyeballs.

Do not open the eyes in ordinary water, sea water is all right. Instead, splash the closed eyes and forehead with cold water when washing, ten to thirty splashes. In certain cases, very rare, this does not give a feeling of refreshment. If this is so, discontinue the practice.


Turn the eyes sideways, up and down, and diagonally, ten times each way, each morning and evening. It is best to find some objects as far outward, diagonally or sideways as they can be seen with effort, and in turning the eyes in these directions, look at the objects. It is not the rapidity with which the eyes move that is important, but the controlled effort to move the eyes as far as possible in the direction named. Look at the tip of the nose, or at the finger near the nose, or at the thumb held about ten inches from the face, and touching the chest. Pause, while looking at this. Then send the eyes or attention outward to some object in the distance, on eye level, and bring them back to rest on the nose, finger or thumb. The tendency will be to pause on the outer object if one is slightly short-sighted, and on the finger, etc., if becoming old-age-sighted or long-sighted. The best way is to make an effort to see the thumb, a good effort, and then a good effort to see the object- in the distance, but do not pause where the object is not clear. It is the exercise o£ the muscles that counts, not the actual seeing of whichever object, near or far, it is difficult to see. If there is already slight strain in the eyes or a feeling of discomfort, look at the point of a pencil, held about three inches from the tip of the nose, and move the pencil point up and down, as far as the eye can reach. Do this two or three times. If the point is not clear, follow it as given in the exercise for imbalance.


Rest the eyes during the day by changing the focus from time to time, or closing them for a few moments, while thinking of relaxation. A better word than relaxation is let-go. We do not clench our fists unless we are nerve-strained, so see that the eyes are not held firmly clenched, but as though they are not there at all.


See that the head is in an upright* position, turned neither to one side nor the other, nor towards one shoulder or the other. Bend it slightly towards the book or paper or needlework.


These exercises should not be used by anyone who sometimes has `floating clouds’ before the eyes. Nor by anyone whose sight will not function without very strong glasses, nor by those who have a tendency to haemorrhage. These cases need the advice of a practitioner.

It is essential that the habits and exercises in the foregoing portion should be strictly attended to. No result will come by strain, nor through the constant wrong use of the eyes while a few minutes are given to exercises. Time should be spent to get familiar with the information given in~this book, and then the following exercises may be used. Sometimes patients ask for a planned routine. This is not good. We are too spoon-fed in health and medical ways as it is, and what we need is to take a more intelligent attitude towards the organs of the body as organs or instruments which we use, and want to use in order that we may contact the outside world. It is, therefore, better that each one should, make his own plan within a certain framework. Except in rare cases we do not advocate as long as an hour at exercises at one time, and in these days some of that time is taken up by relaxation. Normally fifteen to thirty minutes is all that a person can do while keeping his mind on the work, and, as can be seen from the whole knowledge of sight, boredom or lack of will is a deterrent to any success.

The exercises of looking at the tip of the nose, finger or thumb should be done at first for five minutes at once, periodically squeezing the eyes four times, and blinking twenty times – say about four times in that five minutes.

Stretch the eyes upward and outward, i.e. diagonally, to the top left and top right corners, and then look at the chart. Do this five times each way and with vim. Get the feeling that you are doing the five minutes bodily exercise advocated by so many, and therefore put a swing into it!

Blink at, i.e. with the attention on, each letter on one line of the chart. Take any line, according to where you are standing, which you cannot quite read. Repeat this ten times.

Blink at the spaces between the letters on one line. Repeat ten times.

In both these exercises care should be taken to pay attention to the letters. It should be done quickly; about a second or two is enough to spend on a line of ten letters.

Draw, with the attention, a circle round each letter, three times, and then blink. If the finger is pointed towards the letter and makes a circle in the air as though helping the attention to move round it, it is a help and a guide. Repeat ten times. Direct the attention to the top of a letter. Then to the bottom, then to each side in turn, as though asking oneself just what kind of a line or point there is at each part. Repeat for each letter ten times.

Go to the chart and look at the letter properly, examine it, and then move backwards one pace at a time to where it is not so distinct. Notice where it is not distinct and keep the attention on that point. All the time blink constantly. Repeat this moving backwards, either a few paces, or a smaller area, according to what you are trying to get clear. Do this for five minutes.

Close the eyes and draw the letter in the head with the atten- tion, making it very small, microscopic, or imagine you have a tiny square of black paper and cut the letter out of it. Then open the eyes and look at the letter. Repeat ten times.

Palm as often as possible, or at least close the eyes and relax. Learn the letters on the chart by heart, so that you know what they are when you look at them. If you look at them in this way intelligently you fix on the detail almost without knowing it. Learn the peculiarities- of letters, the slight differences in the white spaces, for example, between N and H. Learn that T is the only letter that goes out to the left at the top and watch for this, that J is the only letter that goes to the left at the bottom. This is to help you look at the detail on a letter instead of spreading all over it and trying to grasp it all at once.

If reading can be seen at nine inches or more, glasses should be taken off for all reading, and more attention given to blinking while reading.


The principle of controlled moverhent of the attention through the eyes, as well as of the muscles moving the eyeballs in the sockets, has been brought to perfection in the exercise of the circle. It has been worked up to a fine art by Dr. N. A. Stutterheim with the aid of a machine and prisms, but is equally, if not more, effective when done in the following manner.

Take a knitting-needle or pencil and hold it about arm’s length in front of the face. Transcribe a circle with it, the eyes following the point. Care should be taken that if the right hand is holding the pencil it moves over sufficiently to the left to take the left eye right into the outer corner of the socket. The circles can be of different sizes, but must be drawn very, very slowly. They can be at different distances from the face. The head must not be allowed to turn. If possible, someone else should move the pencil, as this is more effective.

This exercise finds out any imbalance in the muscles, any weak spots where control lapses, and ensures that each eye is being used. When the circle is to the right, the left eye cannot see the pencil, for the nose cuts off its vision; when to the left, the same thing happens to the right eye. In the upper and lower portions of the circle both eyes are being used at once.

The adaptations of this principle are numerous, for one can follow an imaginary circle on the opposite wall, in the air, round a clock or picture, or watch, or on small print, for ten minutes or more, making the circle one way only. The next period of ten minutes the circle can be made in the opposite direction.

The essential point is that the eyes must follow the pencil, not jerkily or shirking difficulties, but making an effort to see equally far outwards with each eye, and not jumping at the corners.


It is first essential to rid oneself of the idea that eyesight deteriorates because of age, and get the clear conception that it deteriorates because of wrong use and strain or overtiredness. At its early stages, therefore, it can be overcome through correction of wrong habits, cultivation of right usage, relaxation and avoidance of strain. The health should be watched.

After the usual hygiene, daily habits, and general muscle exer- cise have been attended to, it is necessary, in most cases, to pay particular attention to the easy movement of the eyeballs in the sockets, to loosen them up, so to speak.

Secondly, particular attention must be paid to the relaxation of the forehead, as described already.

If there is imbalance, use the exercise of watching the point of a pencil held near enough to the nose to get both eyes equally placed in the sockets. Generally there is such a point; probably when the eyes are turned well upward or well downward. Always start with the point one, not where it begins to become two, and take the pencil slowly upwards or downwards, making an effort to keep the point one. Also follow the point of the pencil from near the nose to reading distance, actually putting it on to the book being read.

If reading is possible but difficult, use a post card as a bookmark, not necessarily under the actual line being read, but covering part of the paper or page. Sometimes move the post card up and down quickly over part of the print, sometimes use a corner of the card as a pointer to the words.

Take some print of a size which you cannot see at ten to fifteen inches. Spell out two or three lines. A word is made up of letters, and if you were writing the word your pencil would have to move over the whole shape of the letters. It is the same with sight, so avoid trying to see the whole word or even letter at once. Keep the attention on the smallest spot possible, and move it from spot to spot.

Blink and trace the white lines under the print. Point and blink at the white spaces between the words. Look at one word -through a magnifying-glass, or prick a hole in a piece of paper and hold it up to one eye while closing the other. Through this hole you will probably see much more clearly and so can read the word. Then look at the word with both eyes, without the hole, and look for the shapes of the letters. Look for the tails of such letters as p and g, and the tops of t, h, etc. Do not pass on and say: “I cannot see such and such a letter.” Look for it.

Blink at the first letters of each word, and try to point at the first letter of each word when pointing to words on a line. Close the eyes and draw, in the head, as small as possible, the words, and then look for them. Learn a verse or so or sentence that appeals to you, and when travelling about close the eyes and draw or print it in the head, very, very small.

Read a paragraph of any print that is nearly readable, holding the print upside down. The general tendency is to rush along over the word or line, though it is equally bad to look at and read each word as though it existed independently of a phrase. To read with the print upside down ensures the cultivation of look- ing for the first letters in words.

After any time spent at close work, look from near to far ten or thirty times, squeeze and blink. Do this exercise at times during hours of close work.

Swing the eyes in a semi-circle downwards, look at the left shoulder, then move in a semi-circle downwards as far as the lap or floor near the feet, and up to the right shoulder. Force the eyes down in this movement. Do it five to ten times two or three times a day. Also turn the eyes well downwards and outwards – diagonally downwards and outwards. (For short sight it is the diagonal upwards and outwards that works best.) Watch, when the eyes are closed, that they are turned slightly downwards; not forced down, but turned slightly downwards.

Try to develop the capacity to read -with the brain, and not with the eyes. Remember that the eyes should be as little used as the ears. We listen in the head; we see, if we are seeing properly, in the head.


Contrary to most opinions, the cinema is good for the eyes. What is harmful is the way we use the eyes when watching the screen.

Look round the cinema; most people have slipped down in the seats, chins are up, and heads are back. Almost everyone is staring hard at the picture. Naturally the front seats or the extreme side seats, or the back rows in the very large cinemas, are not good, and therefore we should take care where we sit in the very large or very small cinemas. If anyone suffers from imbalance it is necessary to find out whether there is much more comfort in the stalls or in the circle, and especially which side of the house gives the least discomfort. Finding these points out will make the cinema a rest rather than a strain, even to those who do suffer from imbalance.

For all of us, however, there are a few hints which will make the cinema a rest for the eyes. First, the chin must be held in rather than out. In other words, the head should be straight (see the hints on the position of the head in the early part of this book). We must start by remembering to blink, and if we need it, we should squeeze sometimes. To stretch the back neck muscles by pulling the chin well in, bending the head downwards and raising it once or twice, is a relief.

We listen without strain; try to see without strain.

To those whose days are spent in close work there is rest for the eyes in watching a film.

For the somewhat short-sighted, too, the cinema is helpful. I have been told it has been suggested as a corrective to the excessive use of long-distance vision in the Fleet Air Arm. After periods of flights the boys have been told to spend part of their leave at the cinema, sitting near the screen.

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