How to Use Both Sides of Your Brain

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Have you ever heard people say that they are more of a ‘right brain’ or ‘left brain’ thinker? You’ve probably heard the term before, whether it is on the radio, in a TV show, or sometime long ago in your bio class. But, what does the expression really mean? Do we really think with one side of our brain versus the other?

The science

It might surprise you to learn that the idea of “right brained” and “left brained” thinkers actually has a great deal of scientific credibility. According to this theory, the right and left hemispheres of the brain control different types of thinking. Some people tend to have a proclivity for either their left or their right side of their brain. For example, left handed people are commonly associated with using their “right brain,” and right handed people tend to be associated with using their “left brain.”

Below are some abilities that are popularly associated with the right and left side of the brain:

Left Hemisphere

  • Logic
  • Conscious thought
  • Language
  • Thinks in words
  • Planning
  • Examines details
  • Rational analysis

Right Hemisphere

  • Emotion
  • Unconscious processes
  • Non-verbal skills
  • Thinks in pictures
  • Creativity, art, intuition
  • Facial recognition and cues
  • “Gut feelings”

What it means to you

Although some brain functions do occur in one or the other side of the brain, the two sides must work together for optimal functioning. Recent research suggests that the brain is not as dichotomous as we once thought, and our thinking is a more global process. The following are suggestions for engaging different parts of your thinking:

Wake up your “Right Brain”

In High School my English teacher assigned us a research paper. No problem. It comes naturally to me to research, organize, and use my words. Then, she asked us to create a visual aid to accompany our paper. Gulp.

  1. Use the following techniques to uncover your creative side:
  2. Sign your name from right to left
  3. Sketch a picture with your non-dominant hand
  4. Listen to a meditation CD
  5. Relax using abdominal breathing or light stretching
  6. Sing along to the radio
  7. Practice facial expression of an emotion in front of a mirror: sad, mad, angry, guilty, confident, embarrassed, etc.

Wake up your “Left Brain”

Recently I was invited to give a presentation, a task that I enjoy and feel confident with. On the way to the meeting, I took a call from my sister who shared with me some upsetting news. I found myself getting quite emotional and by the time I pulled into the parking lot, I couldn’t even remember what I was supposed to talk about!

Use the following techniques to access the logic-based part of your thinking:

  1. Do a math problem in your head
  2. Name as many animals as you can that start with the letter ‘R’
  3. Think of a recipe and write down all the ingredients necessary for the dish
  4. Locate as many things as you can around you that are blue
  5. Write down your problem and tell yourself that you can deal with it later
  6. Read something – anything that will distract you

Have fun with this process, and be kind with yourself. It is natural if this does not come easily to you at first. Most importantly it is okay to celebrate your strengths and know what situations, environments, and tasks you will excel.

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