Nervous System Function: Balance
- Thursday, 14 April 2011
Previously, I discussed the fascinating nervous system and how great people are at learning things. Hopefully you tried my exercise, and we are all smiling a little more and enjoying our days. The next step in the path to mastery of our nervous system is to understand the simple concept of ‘balance’.
I would like to take a fresh look at why balance and moderation are important. Using a biological approach to balance, I will discuss how balance helps our brain and the nerves stay healthy.
When I talk about balance and moderation, you may wonder, “Is he talking about standing on one foot?” or “Is he talking about meditating?” or even “Is he talking about falling down?”If you think it refers to all of the above, you are correct.
When it comes to the brain and balance, all of the above activities have the same neurological traits. The key is involving both sides of your brain, the ‘right brain’ and the ‘left brain’, as much as possible.
The left and right brain generally do different things. For example, the left brain is your logical side. It is mathematical, calculated, problem solving and mechanical. Your right brain is more your emotional side. It is artistic, musical, expressive and creative.
As we dig deeper into this simple law of nature, it reveals much to us about our own personalities. Everyone lives somewhere in the spectrum between left brain and right brain dominance. Our genetics and our environment generally determine where we lie on this spectrum. On the genetics side, it is shown that generally speaking, men are more left brain dominant and women are more right brain dominant.
This tendency for either left or right brain dominance provides an opportunity to engage the other side of brain as much as possible through our environment, culture and lifestyle. The most important thing to note here is BALANCE is the key to brain health.
Those that are more left brain dominant are often known as go-getters. They get things done. They solve problems when they arise. For optimal brain health, I would recommend finding some right brain activities to do. Meditation, art, music, exercise, yoga and outdoor activities in nature are all great ways for you to get your right brain engaged.
For you right-brainers who are generally more artistic and expressive in nature, you may be well served to get your logical mind going. You are generally more in touch with your emotions, which is a great thing. Try not to make too many emotional decisions, however. When making decisions, try, to reason things out and predict the results. Puzzles like Sudoku, or activities that involve numbers, are great at engaging the left brain.
The key is to find things that are great in activating both parts of the brain. The brain works on a very simple principle: Use it or lose it. The more you use the brain, the better it works, the healthier it is and the longer and happier you live.
Ideally, we want to do things that make the best use of our brains and activate as many different parts of it as possible. Activities that activate both sides of our brain include meditation, yoga and exercise. These simple practices engage thoughts and movements that are critical to brain health. Earlier, I gave three examples of ‘balance’. Let’s go back to these and explore them:
Standing on One Foot
This is a very healthy thing to do for your brain. By standing on one foot for 30 seconds, and then switching, you are engaging many muscles, nerves and parts of your brain. Standing on one foot engages many posture and balance muscles, which recruit many different nerves, on both sides of the brain.
Meditation is a great way to access both lobes of the brain. Our brains are ‘compartmentalized’ to help keep things organized. Meditation allows us to gain greater awareness of this organization, and access our brains on a deeper level. Ultimately, this helps us use our left and right brains better as we go about our day-to-day tasks. For example, someone who is more left brain dominant and meditates regularly is better able to connect to their emotions, while someone who is right brain dominant and meditates is better at making rational decisions.
Falls in the elderly is a topic I researched extensively as a student in Chiropractic College. It was a passion of mine to understand the data out there and be able to help develop programs to prevent elderly (and young) people from falling down. These studies led me to balance, exercise and regular chiropractic care. Anything that engages the brain, especially on the opposite side of dominance, prevents falls.
The underlying component in all of these things is balance in brain activity. Like the experts say, too much of anything is not good, and moderation is the key. The same goes for solely activating your left or right brain.
As we learned last time, you can learn new patterns and create new realities in an instant. This time we learned that if you do not use it, you lose it. As you find greater balance in your life, you will find lifetime health and happiness from knowing that a few simple insights helped make you a master of your nervous system!