A recent study found that a single hour in an art museum improved a person’s attitude and demeanor. But rather than battle the crowds at MOMA, spending some time staring at any object that speaks to you can elicit many wonderful experiences. A bowl of peaches is a swell place to start.
Set a timer for five minutes. Now look directly at the fruit without averting your gaze. Observe the object with all of your senses. How would you describe it? Smooth? Fuzzy? Small? How many colors do you see? You’ll find that the act of quiet observation releases dopamine into the brain and helps promote the feeling of escape.
While staring at the peaches, ask yourself: How did they arrive in that bowl? How did the bowl arrive on the table? Who grew the peaches? Who picked them? Who packed them? Who shipped them?
Ready for further experimentation? Extend your gaze to 20 minutes. The longer you stare at the peaches, the more likely you are to experience “the Troxler effect.” This is a phenomenon first identified by Ignaz Paul Vital Troxler in 1804, and occurs when we fix our eyes on an unchanging scene for a long-enough period of time. When certain stimuli have been consistently hitting our senses for a while, our brains have a way of tuning them out. Mild hallucinations may occur as you disassociate and depart from reality. Shift your cognitive state away from concrete details, and towards abstract ideas. What comes to mind?
Finally, since you are not being eyeballed by humorless security guards (unless you’ve taken your bowl of peaches into a museum, in which case, ignore the following), you can go further than staring at the peaches. Examine them, fondle them, throw them, use one as a writing implement. Smash them, smell them, balance one on the top of your head.
But don’t eat them…at least not until a full hour has passed. By delaying gratification, the experience will be that much juicier. And memorable.
Should you wish to perform this experiment with human forms, ask a friend over and stare into each others’ eyes for 10 minutes or more. Does time slow down? Do you start seeing his face turn into a lizard? Italian psychologist Giovanni Caputo says to expect all this and more.