The Basics: Right Brain, Left Brain
I love getting to know more about myself. I find it extremely useful to get more in depth into why I am the way I am so that I can better my choices and actions for a happier and healthier me in the future. Like Socrates’ famous directive, “Know thyself.” It is desire for growth that propels me into deeper and deeper knowledge of the brain.
First Lesson of Brain Health:
The brain is plastic. This is sometimes referred to as neuroplasticity and it basically means that the brain can change for good or bad in your overall health.
The main function of our brain and nervous system is to adapt our body to internal and external environments. This requires pattern recognition and learning. If the brain sees patterns overtime it will prioritize them as important and create more connections for ease of use.
For instance, when you learn a language you might not recognize a word at first. If you only see it once then you will most likely forget it but if you see it everyday then its meaning becomes important and you build more connections in your brain to prioritize that word. This process is kind of like working out… If you work out a muscle, overtime it will grow. Simple idea but the applications are endless.
This is not just for learning a language, it can be used for balance, coordination, physiology, pain sensitivity (for better or worse), focus, concentration, memory, even our emotions, and the list goes on.
This is what we do at Inside Out Health in Santa Cruz, California. We positively use neuroplasticity for better health and happiness. Pretty cool, right?
Second Lesson of Brain Health:
There are different sections of the brain and they are responsible for different functions.
Now, this is a huge lesson and in order to make it digestible we are breaking it down into different parts. First part is about the difference of your right and left brain (generally speaking).
You have probably heard that there are differences between your right and left brain and we find that a lot of people identify themselves as being more right or left brain dominant. In my experience, I have never heard anyone claim that they have perfect balance between their brain hemispheres, and yet this is the goal. Usually people present as having characteristics mostly found with strengths in one side and weaknesses in the other. So let’s get into the nitty gritty to determine where you might fit in, in order to better understand yourself now and improve yourself for the future. As a disclaimer, everyone should have qualities from both sides. When some do not, they present with some form of developmental disorder like Autism, ADHD/ADD, learning disabilities, and much more.
The Right Brain
The right brain is all about big picture. It can see the beach, for instance, but it doesn’t see the grains of sand. It is more in charge of moving big muscles, controlling posture and gait, and it is more spatially oriented. This gives you a good idea of where you are in space and allows your body to move appropriately.
The right brain is more social. It is involved with the nonverbal forms of communication; facial expression, tone, and body language. The right side is more emotional as well. This is where people develop emotional intelligence, or EQ. Once a person learns how to interpret their own emotions they should develop the ability to empathize, or see the emotions in someone else.
It is also used in the sense of smell and taste. The interesting part is that the sense of smell is used to discriminate if things are bad and good. This also gets used to interpret if people are bad or good, and these decisions are made subconsciously.
The right brain is responsible for self-awareness, and is governed by avoidance behavior. This is the part of our brain that tells us when we are safe and when we aren’t. This is closely linked to our emotions of fear, anger, and disgust. This helps us to control our impulses, especially ones that could be shameful, regretful, or dangerous. Indirectly, this helps us with our focus and attention.
Routine bores the right brain. It loves to learn new places, objects, and discover new situations.
The right hemisphere helps to control the immune system by inhibiting it from overreacting. This is important for dealing with infections and especially for people who struggle with Autoimmunity (1/4 of all people in the U.S.). It also controls most life-supporting automatic reactions like digestion and heart rate.
These are the strengths of the right hemisphere. If you reread this section imagining the opposite then you have an idea of what right brain weaknesses are like.
The Left Brain
The left brain likes to zero in on the details. It controls muscles of fine motor skills like typing, drawing, music playing, or even speaking.
This goes hand in hand with the left brain’s role of verbal communication; reading, writing, and talking. As an example, if a person is left brain dominant and right brain deficient then they will take words very literally, because the right brain takes subconscious and nonverbal communication, whereas the left is focused on conscious and the learned meaning behind words. If you are someone who talks to yourself when you are alone, this happens in your left brain.
The left brain is very logical and linear. It recognizes patterns and it systematizes knowledge. Video games and board games are favorite for left brainers.
In contrast to the right brain when it comes to EQ, the left brain is responsible for IQ. In conjunction with this pathway it is involved with curiosity and motivation. Because of this there are positive emotions involved with the left brain like happiness, reward, having fun, and a get-up-and-go mindset.
It helps initiate immune system response to fight off bugs and infections.
There are many more details to both sides of the brain and we couldn’t possibly get into all of the details when books have been written about just that. However, we have included a downloadable quiz to figure out which side of the brain is more dominant for you. Just write us a message on the Contact Us page to request it. This goes into some more details of the differences between side to side. We hope that using this quiz will be both helpful and informative to you. If you have any questions, would like more information regarding brain hemispheres, or would like to receive a full brain analysis to see where your strengths and weaknesses lay and how you can maximize that, feel free to contact us.
Healthy brain, happy body.