Balance Your Brain To Improve Productivity

At the 'young' age of 42, I decided to learn how to play the ukulele.  My son got a ukulele after learning about it in music class, and I found myself picking his up and playing with it frequently.   So I got my own.  It was really difficult at first, since it had been over 35 years since touching a musical instrument.  (I played the clarinet in middle school, but sadly, not by choice.  My older sister had picked the clarinet, and as most middle children know.... I got stuck with it!)  What I found so difficult with learning how to play a string instrument is the fact that both my hands needed to do two completely different things, simultaneously.  Throw singing in the mix and my brain was a hot mess.  Eventually, I figured it out, with a lot of practice.  After less than six months, I can both sing and play over 20 songs...and not think twice about singing, strumming and using the fret board.  And I've moved on from a concert ukulele to the big daddy - a baritone ukulele, which still has only 4 strings, but is the largest ukulele and sounds more like a guitar.   Playing the ukulele is exactly that...'playing' for me.  I practice every day out of the joy it brings to my heart, but with an added benefit of challenging my brain (and hands) in amazing and fun ways.    (By the way, to see some amazing ukulele playing, check out Jake Shimabukuro's rendition of "Eleanor Rigby" on YouTube.)


Your Brain - Right Vs. Left Sides

I was curious about why it was so challenging at first to have both hands doing totally different things simultaneously.  Apparently this is attributed to the fact that each side of our brain is responsible for different things.  Left side dominant brains tend to be very analytical, they like calculations, reasoning and handling a lot of tasks and view the world in black and white.  In contrast, those with right dominant brains tend to be very emotional and creative, love art and music and view life full of vibrant colors.  Even though you use both sides of the brain equally, sometimes through practice you may feel more dominant on one side.  For me, on most days, I'm a "leftie".  But I think playing my ukulele lets me cross over to the right side.

Left Brain Vs Right Brain

Source: Bryant Arnold


 Why It Helps To Use Both Sides Of Your Brain

When you perform an activity that challenges and uses the opposite side of your brain and body, you are actually strengthening a mass of tissue called the corpus callosum, which is responsible for communication between the right and left hemispheres of your brain.   Improving communication between each side of the brain helps you to coordinate learning and movement more efficiently as well as develop fine motor and cognitive skills. ¹  A 2004 joint study by the  U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences at Fort Benning, Ga. and the University of Melbourne, Australia found that mathematically gifted students used both hemispheres of their brain equally, while those who were not gifted, were slower to answer and tended to use one side of the brain dominantly.²

You can strengthen your corpus callosum by what many physical therapists call 'crossing the midline', which is an imaginary line from your head to the toes that separates the left and right sides of your body.  Anytime you cross over from right to left or vice versa, you are engaging the corpus callosum and creating new neural pathways to allow your brain's hemispheres to talk to each other.  Some of the following activities below help you to develop and strengthen the communication between both sides of your brain:

Crossline Activities



¹ OT Mom Learning Activities

², "Brain's Left And Right Sides Work Together Better In Mathematically Gifted Youth"

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