Are You Using Your “Right” Brain?
As humans we have a very complex nervous system that controls every aspect of our existence and functions to provide us with knowledge about the environment that we live in. This knowledge about our environment keeps us alive and helps us to make choices to better our living experience. The human brain is continually learning and adapting to our surroundings. Adaptations are important because we need to be constantly conforming to changes that occur around us, and if we can’t adapt we create dysfunctions that hinder our progress as a person and as a species.
The human brain is the most unique and highly evolved nervous system that is found in the animal kingdom. Humans have a highly developed cerebral cortex that consists of a right and left hemisphere. The left hemisphere is designed to process linear thinking and logic, like mathematics, problem solving, timelines and anything of a factual and linear nature. The right side of the brain is where we have the centers for language, art, music and creativity. It was initially thought that humans only used 10% of their brains. This theory however has been disproven. Over the last 30 years with the increase in computer technology and highly specialized imaging equipment scientists have been able to evaluate brain function much more thoroughly and have been able to create a better understandings of the body’s brain and nervous system.
The human brain is actually working 100% of the time. There are nerve signals that are being continually stimulated to keep us breathing, our heart pumping, our digestion functioning, our muscles moving, our eyes seeing, our ears hearing, our skin feeling, etc.! The thought that our brain was only working 10% of the time had to do with conscious thoughts. Most of the function of the nervous system is unconscious. This is great because we go on autopilot and still stay alive. But it’s the last 10% that makes us unique and special in our own individual way.
The right brain developed to help us with creativity. Creativity is necessary for progression to overcome obstacles and problems that arise in our daily life, not just to make pretty pictures or designs. Creativity can often be one of the most neglected aspects of our life. We often get into routines and do things because “that’s the way we have always done them”. If we stifle our creative part of our brain and just live in a survival mode accepting life’s circumstances, and not exploring ways to better our human experience, then we neglect a large portion of our brain and live a life that is less than optimal.
The first step in creativity rehab is to start re-creating or better known in our society as recreation. A little play on words but the reality behind those puns is sincere. When we pull ourselves out of our daily routines like when we go on vacation, our brain starts to relax from the daily logic and problem solving and becomes free to wonder and starts stimulatingthose creative neurons on the right side of the brain that have become dusty and forgotten in the rat race of life.
The next step is to use the re-creation time to start doing things that are creative. Fine art like painting, drawing, coloring, music, and writing are classic examples of right brain creative activities. Don’t feel limited to these activities and go out and sign up for cello lessons if you don’t really have a passion for it. There are many ways to be creative like tying flies for fishing, wood carving, knitting a new winter hat, planting a garden, cooking a fun new delicious paleo recipe, the list can go on and on! As long as you are creating something new you are using the right side of your brain.
Neurologically we can also stimulate the right side of our brain by using the left side of our body. The right brain controls purposeful movement on our left side. If you are right handed you use your left-brain for most of your daily activities like eating, brushing your teeth and hair, writing, and every other activity of daily living. To increase your brain health simply start using your non-dominate hand as often as you can. This will seem very difficult at first and probably “create” feelings of frustration but don’t let that deter your progress. The more you learn to do things on your left side the healthier your right brain will become. If you keep up your practice you will find very quickly your body will adapt and you will be more ambidextrous than you ever thought you could be. To start your new practice try eating one meal per day with your left hand, (if you are left handed switch to your right hand as the same is true for improving your opposite brain function) practicing these simple things will really make a huge difference in your brain health.
While you are changing some movement patterns and increasing brain function help your brain with a little targeted nutrition at the same time. Vitamin E is essential for increasing right brain activity. Be careful however because vitamin E is not just alpha-tocopherol as it is sold over the counter. Alpha-tocopherol is just the anti-oxidant component of the vitamin E molecule just as ascorbic acid is just the anti-oxidant component of the vitamin C molecule. Choosing whole food vitamins ensures that you will be getting all aspects of the vitamins as nature intended. In nature there are multiple other aspects to those vitamins like selenium that is an essential component of the vitamin E molecule. Zinc is also a mineral that is helpful for right brain function. Oppositely Vitamin C and manganese are essential for left-brain activity. Don’t forget your omega 3’s, they are essential for all aspects of your brain and you should be taking those daily as well.
Keeping your brain balanced takes constant conscientious effort, but doing the little things on a daily basis goes a long way for optimal brain function. Make sure you are using your recreation time for re-creating and finding the balance that has been missing from your daily busy life that all of us fall into. Get the last 10% of your brain firing up again and live a life that is healthy, natural and optimal.