5 Paths To Growth: Working With The Brain

Last post we reframed midlife as an opportunity for spiritual growth, self discovery and meaning, and how we can start to know what we want, be all of who we are, and create a life of choice and purpose. A great first step on this path of self discovery is getting to know and reclaim all the parts of who we are. Working with parts allows us to bring together missing parts of ourselves that, if not claimed, tend to do their own thing, sapping our energy and causing us to live in reactive and often unproductive ways.

What our brains need: the whole picture

Thanks to research and science, we’ve gotten to know a lot more about what we’re working with physiologically when it comes to change, growth and transition. Over time we’ve learned that we need to involve our entire brain in the process, starting on the right side (creativity, imagination, intuition, feelings and the body), since past events that shaped the way our brains are wired, and the ways we still react to the world, are stored there.

If we can access the core of our experiences from the right sides of our brains, we can then connect with our left brains to create a whole and meaningful ‘story’ of our past and future lives.

Traditionally, we’ve focused on the left sides of our brains (logical, linear facts, language and reasoning) as a first step of healing and growth via talk therapy and language. Recently we realize that in order to work with our pre-verbal and earliest influences, we need to take some right brain routes first.

I’ve found that working with the right brain can be fun, playful and creative. It get’s you out of the ‘working on and talking about my problems’ mode and into ‘playing with and expressing what’s authentic and happening right now.

The importance of integration

However, we don’t want to focusonlyon the right side of the brain. A health brain is one that’s integrated, bringing together and connecting both sides. While need the right side to access ideas, past memories, emotion, intuition and creativity, we equally need the left side to organize and make sense of it.

5 paths to the right brain

Here are some ways to work/play on the right side of your brain:

  1. Visual expression: You may not consider yourself an ‘artist’ and that’s completely fine. It’s even better sometimesnotto worry about ‘being artistic’ to be able to express yourself authentically. Working with collage is an excellent way for anyone to start using their creative imagination self expression.
  2. Writing: This may actually seem like a left brain activity since it involves language. Writing is an example of an activity that needs the integration of both sides to work. The right brain provides the creative side of writing with images, ideas, feelings and creative expression while the left side is needed to provide form, flow and understanding. Journaling, free writing and writing with your non- dominant hand are great way to start playing with words.
  3. Mindfulness: Being in the present moment, observing what’s happening now, letting thoughts go and being an observer starts on the right side of the brain.

Besides meditation, tracking is a way to practice mindfulness as you go through your day. When you feel an emotion, notice where you feel it in your body and track where it goes observing without judgment.

  1. Dreams: Our nightly dreams have been termed the “royal road to the unconscious” by early psychologists since they connect directly to our unconscious. Dreams provide a connection to our deepest and often inaccessible selves.

Recording and drawing your dreams: get in the habit of capturing dreams as soon as you can after experiencing them. In addition to writing, try drawing them in any way that feels right to you (stick figures and simple shapes are fine!)

  1. Movement: Express ourselves with physical movement is another way to connect with the unconscious, since truly ‘the body does not lie’.

Authentic movement: as with art, don’t think of moving as a performance or ‘dance’, but as allowing your body to express itself in any way it wants. Put on music without words and see what your body wants to do. Alone in your room is just fine!

I’ll be going into more detail on all of these paths to the right brain in future posts. In the meantime, have fun exploring!

Engage in right brain approaches, such as creativity, imagery, imagination, the body, mindfulness and movement.