Brain health: how to balance the left and right brain

Brain health - how to balance the left and right brain

Do you admire some people for being logical, cool, calm and collected? Perhaps instead you admire people for their creativity, carefree attitude and passion for life? The first collection of characteristics are left-brained in nature as they are associated with logical thought and calm analysis. The second are right-brained as they are associated with emotions, intuition and creativity. We often have a bias towards one side or the other of our brains. In this article we explore why we may want to balance our left brain with our right brain. We also explore how you may go about balancing both sides of your brain to enhance your flexibility, adaptability and fulfilment in life.

Valuing only left-brain activities and suppressing right brain activities will lead us towards losing touch with our emotions and creativity. Equally, valuing only developing right brain activities and suppressing our left brain will lead us to becoming overly emotional and irrational and may even make it hard for us to function in the “real world”.

How to tell if you are left brain dominant

Some of the behaviours associated with left brain dominance include:

  • Overly sceptical, rejecting anything that cannot be deduced logically
  • Dominance over others, with controlling behaviours
  • Materialistic and mechanistic thinking bias
  • Time based thinking, past to future – finding it hard to enjoy the present
  • Control and structure bias
  • Highly objective and perceptual (thoughts)

How to tell if you are right brain dominant

Some of the behaviours associated with right brain dominance include:

  • Preference for illogical choice or views (eg favours conspiracy theories, particularly without investigation)
  • Ungrounded, intuitive approach to decision making (eg paranormal bias)
  • Living in the now with little concern for the future
  • Highly suggestible, highly gullible (easily led)
  • Creative and freedom bias
  • Highly subjective and conceptual (feelings)

Why integrate left and right brain?

Left-brain skills help us to function in the real world, plan and make logical decisions. However, an overreliance on our left-brain can lead us to having problems processing our emotions and stop us from building effective relationships (because of the lack of emotion). The left-brain can be considered the male part of the brain.

Right-brain skills help us to connect with others and express ourselves as a unique individual. They allow us to trust and not get too caught up in trying to control things. However, an overreliance on our right-brain can lead us to having problems being grounded and practical in our approach. We can also be led astray easily by others. The right-brain can be considered to be the female part of the brain.

At La Crisalida we believe that those who are most flexible and adaptable are those who are most fulfilled. Therefore, we would suggest utilizing both right and left brain approaches throughout your day rather than over-relying on one or the other.

Ways to balance left and right brain dominance

The simplest way to balance the left and right brain is to practice regular meditation. Click here to read our article on how meditation can help.

At La Crisalida to help balance left and right brain we also offer a life makeover workshop called “Expressive Writing”. In this workshop our guests write about a given subject (eg balance) and a prompt (eg balance is….). We bring in the creative right brain by sharing stories associated with the words and writing sections inside chosen shapes. We encourage guests to enter “free-flow” writing in these sessions about the chosen subject to allow the emotional (unconscious) and logical (conscious) sides to integrate. Read our earlier article: free-flow writing.

Other suggested ways of balancing left-brain dominance (and specifically engaging your right brain) include:

  • Attempt to paint expressively. Use plenty of colours and shapes in creating your picture. Weird and wacky is fine – there is no need to show it to anybody else!
  • Take up dancing. The more expressive the better!
  • Find an outlet for expressing your feelings. For example, write a letter to someone you hate (a rant) and then write a letter to someone you love (a love letter). Be illogical and crazy in your rant and in your love letter. Notice how good it feels to be illogical and crazy without any rules. You can also do this exercise by speaking into an audio recording device or recording yourself on video. We suggest not sharing your rants with other people!
  • Practice making speeches with no notes or preparation. Get someone to choose a subject for you to talk about for two minutes and stand up immediately and speak. Let yourself go and it becomes far easier with practice. This exercise will get you in touch with your creativity and resourcefulness and lessen your need for facts and figures.
  • Watch your emotional reaction to pictures and sounds during the day. Notice the triggers if you get irate or confused and how long it takes to let it go. Do the same with anything that brings more pleasant feelings (eg clarity and calmness).
  • Work on being spontaneous whenever you notice you are caught up in a past pattern of behaviour. Try something different and notice how taking some (sensible!) risks can be fun.
  • Search for and read novels about families, people or relationships.

Other suggested ways of balancing right-brain dominance (and engaging your left brain) include:

  • Take up problem solving puzzles or card games which require memory or logic.
  • Make a list of things that you want to do over the next twelve months and plan a rough timeline for them.
  • Carry out some scientific research on something that interests you. Write down a well-reasoned logical and scientific case for something you intuitively believe to be true.
  • Read more non-fiction books on subjects you like.
  • Read the science and business/finance section of the newspapers.
  • Construct a financial plan for yourself by breaking down your major income and expenses into key categories. Make a distinction between regular payments and spontaneous ones. Consider where you could make some financial savings.

Balance the left and right brain on retreat

We offer a wide programme of workshops here at the retreat. Read more about our life makeover retreats here.

Best of luck with these exercises and here’s to a balanced brain!

About the author

John is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. He is a life and success coach, Transformational Coach and a master trainer in NLP. He leads our life makeover programme as well as overseeing the retreats.