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Z Scan

Earlier in the year we were learning how the eyes are a window to the brain. I don’t mean looking into someone’s eyes and seeing when they’re happy or glazing over… Anyone can do that. I mean understanding how the eyes move, and what impact that has on the brain.


Eyes scanning in a Z shape; (starting at the top left, finishing at the bottom right) to take in the scene kept us safe, back when our ancestors had to worry about being prey or hunting for it. They needed to flick their eyes around and assess the situation. Once things were safe, our ancestors would chill, make eye contact with each other and look out into the distance.

You don’t need me to tell you that life in and out of lockdowns has reduced our ability to be in a community, and make eye contact (with anyone but ourselves on zoom), or gaze off into the distance. These activities for the eyes are a system reset for the mind.

Receive a scary email, Z scan and panic before firing off a reply and then… oh there isn’t an organic way to reset the mind. There are no colleagues to smile at, no one’s eye to catch to ask if they’d like a tea. You can see what we’ve been doing to ourselves. Reading news via websites rather than good old fashioned paper involves Z scanning. Perhaps that’s the activity you do on your little breaks from work, not appreciating (perhaps until this moment) you’re still Z scanning, panicked eye movements for a wired brain.

The Z patterns are extremely well documented, and have been used by designers to great effect on websites. That's cool huh? Brands and marketing specialists know how our brain works, and then design their materials to get our attention and... leave our mind scattered.

Consider how much we all use screens and devices, and therefore how often we Z scan... And then you drop into my yoga class and tell me you can’t ‘switch off’ your brain, as if it’s a device like the ones you’ve been using all day. Well you’re in good company, I spend a lot of time online too, and a little bit of yoga is a lovely tonic for the body and mind. In between our sessions, I recommend you to read full and complete sentences, the type you find in these articles to counteract the Z scans. We scan so habitually, taht we dno’t need to wirte proplery, we mkae it up.

Here are some other ideas;

  • Gaze off into the distance

  • Let your eyes be soft in their sockets from time to time

  • Make eye contact with people


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