Each side of the brain performs certain functions. The right side focuses on the visuals and the “big picture” of something and is the side from which creative thought springs, while the left brain is the linear, detail-oriented, and logical part. Many people do tend to have a left or right brain dominance, a factor, for example, in what they might choose for their life’s work. Thus, the artist would never consider accounting for a career, and vice versa.
The brain works best, however, when both sides are activated and involved in learning and activities. When both sides are engaged, neural connections are made that allow them to work together better in the future.
Here are 10 simple exercises anyone can do that will improve the integration of both hemispheres.
1. Visualization and Hands-on Activity Together
Visualization is a right brain function. If nothing is done beyond that, the left brain is not engaged. To engage both sides, take up a hands-on project of some sort – perhaps making some shelving of planting a garden. Let your right brain visualize the end product. Then engage the left brain by identifying all of the steps necessary to complete the project.
Some board games will engage both sides of the brain because there is a visual component to the game and also a strategic element. Chess and checkers are excellent examples of these types of game. Players must keep in their heads the visual of the entire board but must also develop strategies for their moves, sometimes several moves in advance. Jigsaw puzzles offer the same coordination.
3. Learn How to Play a Musical Instrument
Music enjoyment is very much a right hemisphere activity; however, learning placement of the fingers to achieve certain sounds and reading music engages the left hemisphere.
4. Set Up a Physical Environment that Engages the Other Hemisphere
If you work involves primarily left brain activity (bookkeeping, report writing, law research, etc.), set up physical space with art that reflects nature and music of different varieties. Having those things around allows the right hemisphere to engage, too.
5. Learn to Juggle
Juggling requires eye-hand coordination and forces both sides of the brain to work together.
6. Practice the Colored Pen Exercise
Take several pens of different colors and use each one to write the name of a color. However, the color name written must be different than the pen’s color. Now, instead of reading the words that are written, state the color. Your right brain sees the color, but your left brain must engage to remember not to read the word.
7. Practice using your non-dominant hand throughout the day.
This will offset the habit of using one side of your brain more than the other.
8. Use Mind-Mapping Tools for Projects
A mind map is a visual representation of the components of a project. Creating one stimulates the creative brainstorming and visual strength of the right brain. But words must be inserted into the map, and then they must be organized into categories – a left brain activity. There are many free apps for the creation of mind maps, and they are actually great starters for project work.
9. Find Apps That Will Force Hemispheric Cooperation
There are loads of apps to test brain skills, and many of them will force both hemispheres into action. These include such things as color tile moving games. Players must move tiles to create a color palette – easy enough until the added caveat of only having a certain number of moves in which to do it. Then the left-brain strategy must kick in.
10. Solve Math Problems in Multiple Ways
Solving algebraic equations is a linear brain function. Drawing pictures of equations takes those math problem over to the right hemisphere. This works for ration and proportion, percentage, rate, and time mathematical computations, as well.
The more connections made between the two brain hemispheres, the better problem solvers and innovators we become. Taking the logical, linear, detail-oriented cognitive functions of the left and being able to massage and manipulate them with the more creative, big picture of the right is something we all should strive for.