Today, I attended a meeting of lady entrepreneurs in Prescott. Our businesses spanned a lot of disciplines, but a surprising number of us help people move into a place of being whole brained as part of our work (a good deal of what I do centers on helping people move into a whole-brained state in order to change their beliefs and set goals). Because it is so effective, this idea crops up in a lot of modalities. It is, for example, what’s at play when people get over trauma by using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Essentially, we feel better and work better when we can get our brain hemispheres activated and talking to each other.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to do this and most of them are downright enjoyable. Following is a list of whole brain activities from the commonplace to the esoteric. Try one — or heck, try a few — the next time you’re feeling off, unproductive, or blocked, and if you want, tell me how it worked for you!
A while back, I read the Singing Neanderthals, a wonderful book about many things, particularly music. The book goes on at length about how our brains function musically and the takeaway for this blog post is that once you factor in pitch, tempo, and melody, nearly the entire brain is involved. The takeaway? If you want to wake your brain up and work stuff out quickly, pick a song or make one up and sing it. As Johnnie Cash reported, “They’re powerful, those songs. At times they’ve been my only way back, the only door out of the dark, bad places the black dog calls home.”
My personal favorites are to sing the loving kindness meditation, to put to music a Catholic prayer like the Our Father or the Prayer of Saint Francis, as well as the refrain, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” That said, I’m pretty sure you could sing along with Miley Cyrus and feel a whole lot better and more productive by the end of the song. Music is just that powerful.
Quite a few scientific studies, including this one, point to the cognitive benefits of social dancing. Social dancing gets you interacting with a partner, moving to a beat, and, often engaging in the sort of cross-body movements that integrate the brain. All this means that if you have social dancing in your area, think about getting out there, getting social and getting down to dancing.
Walk it off
Other studies, like, say, those covered in this New York times blog post, point to the cognitive benefits of getting out in nature, or at least getting out where there are trees and fresh air. Even a short walk during your workday — as opposed to that 3 pm chocolate fix — will get your whole brain activated and ready to get back down to business. To see pre- and post-walk MRI scans as well as a deeper discussion of movement and its impact on brain function, go here.
A personal favorite, as my clients can readily attest, is the brain-boosting practice of writing longhand. Feel free to kvetch if you feel like it, but also consider writing what you’re grateful for (though Melody Beattie offers that you can do both at the same time). Write about the good things that have happened recently, the good things that you hope for in the future (a planned vacation, the realization of a goal). You can even write a thank you note if there’s someone who has done you a good turn lately. All of this requires the participation of many parts of your brain and leaves you not just feeling better, but being better for having written it.
Cross it over
Centerline crossing whole-brained activities are a quick and easy way to go whole brained. The whole brained posture: crossing your ankles, your hands and arms and placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth is one you can do sitting. If you instead want to get up and move, do cross crawls: essentially doing 10 or so reps of extending each arm out to the side and sweeping it across the centerline to touch the opposite knee. Yoga, by virtue of its symmetrical and often-midline crossing activities is another excellent and popular way to get whole brained.
Let it all go
Meditation, or the grueling practice of thinking about nothing while also doing nothing, is another way to get off the hamster wheel of life, get present, and by virtue of the first two, to get whole-brained. It doesn’t have to be the 30 minutes per day over the course of eight weaks that researchers say helps shrink the fear-shrieking amygdala; even taking moment out of your day to take a breath and let it all go will help your brain — and life — get back to balance.
Are you pulling against the locomotive that is your subconscious? I help self-aware professionals get off the white-knuckling, try-harder track and make fast and lasting gains in their work and lives.
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