By Manjul Bajaj
Most of us have become left-brain people. but by practising these simple techniques you can use both sides of the brain for that mental edge
Which side are you on? Tick one option each for all 14 questions 1. Do you often have hunches? A. Yes B. No 2. Most of your outings are A. On impulse B. Planned well in advance 3. You are always A. Punctual B. Unable to keep track of the time 4. When taking a test you prefer A. Objective type questions (multiple choice, true/ false, etc) B. Subjective formats (long answers, discussions, etc) 5. Do you have a place for everything and everything in its place? A. Yes B. No 6. In relative terms you find the following subject simpler A. Algebra B. Geometry 7. Is it easier for you to remember people’s names or faces? A. Faces B. Names 8. When speaking you use A. Few gestures B. Many gestures 9. When asked for directions to a place you prefer A. To draw a map B. Explain verbally 10. In maths A. You can arrive at the right answer but cannot explain the steps B. Can explain step by step how to arrive at an answer 11. While studying you A. Prefer to sit quietly in a well-lit place B. Move around constantly or pace up and down 12. When engaged in an argument you pay more attention to the opponent’s A. Tone of voice B. What is being said 13. When faced with a tough decision to help you decide, you A. Go for a brisk walk to clear your head B. Write down the pros and cons 14. Before taking a stand on an issue you A. Marshall all the evidence B. Follow your instincts Scorecard Give yourself an L for all the following: 1B, 2B, 3A, 4A, 5A, 6A, 7B, 8A, 9B, 10 B, 11 A, 12 B, 13 B, 14 A Give yourself an R for all the following: 1A, 2A, 3B, 4B, 5 B, 6B,7A, 8B, 9A, 10 A, 11 B, 12 A, 13 A, 14 B More Ls denote a left-brain dominance while a preponderance of Rs show a right brained-ness. A balanced mix points to whole brain usage.
Spend 10 minutes at the Brain Gym A series of simple exercises can give your working life a head start. Regular practice of these can lead to reduced stress, more efficient brain functioning and a more cheerful outlook. Press the brain buttons: While holding the navel area with one hand, rub with thumb and finger of the other hand in the hollow area (2-3 inches apart) just below the collar-bone. Pulse lightly a few times. This increases clarity for any visual activity and is particularly beneficial when doing writing, typing and working at the computer. Cross crawl: Put the right hand across the body to the left knee as you raise it, and then do the same thing for the left hand on the right knee just as if you were marching. Just do this either sitting or standing about two minutes. This exercise helps coordinate right and left brain by exercising the information flow between the two hemispheres. It is useful for spelling, writing, listening, reading and comprehension. Hook-ups: While sitting or standing, cross one ankle over the other. Cross the same-side wrist over the other and touch palms together. Interlace fingers and draw hands up toward chest. Sit this way for one minute, eyes closed, breathing deeply. Uncross legs and put fingertips together, breathing deeply for a minute. This diffuses stress, establishes a positive orientation and promotes clear listening and speaking. A useful exercise for students taking examinations and just before making that important presentation. Tank-up: Drink plenty of water. Water comprises more of the brain (with estimateof 90 per cent) than of any other organ of the body. Drinking some water before an during mental activity can help maintain the mental flow. Drinking water can help students perform better in stressful situations like tests and exams! Also as we tend to perspire under stress, de-hydration can effect our concentration negatively, so replacing the lost water by maintaining a constant intake of fluids can be critical to performance. So there you are. Don’t simply squat in your familiar mental posture. Get up, grab an extra litre or two of water, work that mind out and presto, a whole new brain awaits you.
The term ‘I’m in two minds’ is actually a literal truth and not just a metaphor. The human brain is a paired organ; it is composed of two halves, called cerebral hemispheres. The theory of the structure and functions of the mind suggests that the two sides of the brain control two different ‘modes’ of thinking.
Just stop to wonder for a moment how a two-year-old baby can master the task of speaking so effortlessly while most adult efforts at learning a foreign language tend to end up as more effort and less learning? Most children are born right hemisphere dominant. When an infant learns a language, she does so with her all—the senses of smell, sounds, colours, feelings are all participants in the learning process. As we age, the left hemisphere modes of thinking which rely heavily on processes of the intellect—logic, sequence, organisation—become dominant.
In the Zen tradition the left mind is associated with the process of thinking and the right mind is associated with knowing. Most individuals tend to have a distinct preference for one or the other side of the brain. From very early in life, school and society too conspire to shove individuals into the one or the other slot—‘Arts’ or the ‘Sciences’, and label them as ‘Creative’ or ‘Logical’.
A simple quiz (see page 42) can help clarify which side of the brain you are predominantly using. Both the Left Brain Thinkers who are always being left behind by the need to get everything right—logical, sequential, in black and white—and the Right Brain Knowers, whose holistic, colourful, subjective worldview is always being dismissed by peers because they can’t seem to get their numbers right and facts straight, could do with cross training their brain.
Tony Buzan, author of Using Both Sides of Your Brain, writes, “When people were encouraged to develop a mental area they had previously considered weak, this development rather than detracting from other areas, seemed to produce synergistic effect in which all areas of mental performance improved.”
A few simple techniques, deliberately practised can give the mind that edge by giving it the agility to move from left to right brain as need arises.
Use the other hand
It has been established that the right brain, which is connected with a person’s intuitive, creative and holistic faculties, is linked to left hand movements, while the left brain whose functions are logical, analytical and rational, is linked to right
hand movements. Thanks to the
over-emphasis on the written word and paperwork, all of which are left brain activities done with the right hand, the chances are that schooling has left you with a lop-sided brain development.
Simple acts like brushing your teeth or combing your hair with the non-dominant hand (in most cases the left), if incorporated into your routine can help stimulate the creative brain. The ALOHA, a Malaysian programme of mental arithmetic, which has shown startling results with children, requires kids to practise writing with both hands as part of its training.
Do familiar tasks differently
Try showering or starting the car with your eyes shut or read a page or two upside down, or simply shut the eyes for a few minutes and explore the room with the other senses—touch, smell, background noises—to tune into the right brain. These simple acts force you out of the most frequently utilised areas of your mind and into areas less utilised.
Picture the problem
Stuck on a problem and with nowhere to go? Try depicting it pictorially—yes, draw it out, use colours to depict its intensity or aspects, arrows to depict its direction, anything goes. Drawing or attempting to visually depict a problem or its solution can trigger off the brain into alternate neurological pathways to come up with better and more holistic ideas.
Join the kids
Some of the simple games we played as children can help tone up the brain and reinforce the functions of sequential thinking, logic and the remembering of names and dates, the common bugbears for the right-brained types. Crossword puzzles offer an excellent mental workout as does a good round of scrabble. Similarly the games of Name, place, animal, thing’ or a round of “I went to the party and I ate…” can enhance memory and sequential thinking ability. Go on and grab some quality time with the kids.
Move that body
Carla Hannaford, a neurophysiologist and educator with 28 years of teaching experience and the author of the bestselling book Smart Moves, states that our bodies are very much a part of all our learning, and learning is not an isolated ‘brain’ function. Every nerve and cell is a network contributing to our intelligence and our learning capability.
Complex movement stimulates complex thinking. Across-the-body arm movements such as those used in swimming or doing the march-past stimulate brain synchronisation and help develop better communication across the hemispheres. Rhythmic movements such as dancing, skating, walking or martial arts also serve to stimulate the brain into activating more complex pathways. (See box)
Don’t forget to relax
Finally, a deep state of relaxation is essential to effective brain functioning. Tai Chi, yoga, spontaneous dancing, a brisk walk or a regular game of squash or tennis can take your mind into the zone of maximum potential. Researching into the process of mental genius, Joseph C. Pearce writes in his book The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, “The final breakthrough in every recorded case occurs at a moment when the logical processes have been suspended, a moment of relaxation ….”
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