Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stepping into your "Right-Brain"

I recently re-watched Jill Bolte Taylor's TED talk. She's a neurology researcher who suffered a stroke and relives the experience for her audience, describing the sensations and thoughts she encountered at the time. I'm in tears every time I reach the end of her talk. Not just because she went through something so terrifying, but because of the message she leaves you with.

Having done a decade of post-secondary education, I'm what my family considered a "permanent student". Even now, I continue to research, to learn, to catalogue information. I use the left-side of my brain most often; calculating and analyzing journal articles and new research.

Jill, a fellow scientist, brought up an interesting point: We all have a choice of which reality we want to live in at any given moment; You can live in the analytical "Left side" - which is great while at work or when trying to figure out something, but you can also step into the "Right Side" of the brain and be connected to the world at any given moment.

What is the "right side" of the brain? 
It's the "creativity" side. Working puzzles, learning a new skill, exploring your imagination, writing, dancing, painting, drawing, colouring.

Why is this important? I think we need to access that side more often in our world. I was listening to an old podcast of comedian Bryan Callen where he mentioned the incredible fact that he gets paid to use his imagination. How many of us can say that? So why not?

Do something each day to access that side of your brain. Maybe that's another reason why adult colouring books are so popular. We now have another way of using the right-side of our brains. For adults, this isn't always easy. We have responsibilities, work, bills to pay. But life isn't just about working to make money, to pay bills and save up for retirement. It's about experiencing the world around us. Don't ever forget to connect with nature, connect with creativity - no matter what that means for you. You might think you're terrible at drawing. Maybe you actually hate colouring, but there is always another activity that you can do. Remember that this is just for you. No one will judge you. And make sure to do something that you enjoy.

Maybe that's what stops many of us from exploring our creativity: the fear of being judged. I have an entire folder on my computer of stories and novels that I've started and most I've never finished. Sometimes a girl just has to write out a chapter or two to get it off her chest. I don't expect anyone else to read it. Once every year I'll go back to it, and I can remember what it was like writing it. I take a little pride in it. And then I'll go start something new.

Things to keep in mind:

  • No one needs to see it but you. Keep a portfolio, sketches of something, or nothing. Pick up some paint and a canvas from the dollar store and just fill the space. Make a mess, or put it up on your wall. It doesn't matter. You're doing it for you, no one else. 
  • Dance when no one is watching. Swing your arms wildly, spin in circles - just try not to run into furniture! Or download Carmen Electra's striptease aerobics, Zumba or any other video that will teach you choreography step-by-step.
  • Sing when no one is listening. My favourite is in the bathtub... you get the best acoustics. 
  • Journalling and diary keeping doesn't have to be like it was in grade school. Make lists. maybe they're to-do lists, or "favourite" lists, or something more creative. Need some inspiration? Check out the List App (one of BJ Novac's projects) - other examples:
    • best books that made me laugh out loud
    • Most bad-ass movie quotes
    • Things I say to myself out loud when I'm alone
    • Favourite nostalgic moments from the 90's
    • best "pump you up" music videos 
    • Most impressive or surprising sports moments of the week (apparently the Bronco's had a crazy game last weekend... so document it!)
The point is, we all need time to disconnect from our "analytical" sides and step into our "right-brain" at some point. It keeps us going and nurtures the soul. Use your imagination - it might surprise you :)