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Why Millenials Have to Rethink Their Reading Habits

Why Millenials Have to Rethink Their Reading Habits

I was at a family dinner; a relative was discussing a book he had just read and asked me if I had read it. Before I could answer an annoying sibling answered for me, ‘Oh, she doesn’t read books, only social media’, Stupid, of course, I read books, didn’t I? I then tried to remember the last book I had read and realised I couldn’t.

I knew of The Man Booker Prize list which the current topic of conversation was on, but to discuss any of the books on the shortlist, No. I did do an online search, so I could hold my own in the conversation, but wasn’t that exactly what my annoying sibling was intimating? I decided to look more into it; was I odd or an example of millennials everywhere, I found I fit in nicely with Gen Y.

Apparently, millennials do read, but what we read is mostly dictated by its usefulness, its newsworthiness. We devour social news, current events in the lives of friends and strangers. We like bullet notes and what to do lists, we read to connect with others. What we do not do is read for ourselves, to take time out, to relax. I want to share some of the facts that are making me rethink reading a book.

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1. Books stimulate our brain

Every time we read a book we open new neural pathways, (synapses), this says we are stimulating the brain, keeping it functioning and fresh. Recent research on brain patterns shows our interactions and interpretation of what we read creates a mental simulation in our senses, opening them up for more experiences. 

If we want the ability to change and adapt our fixed neural pathways and keep our brains agile and functioning quickly; we need to read more. Reading books introduces our brains to new stimuli, it adds to our perceptions of others and keeps our leadership and managing skills from stagnating.

2. Reading stops you from multitasking

Millennials tend to run around with an ADD disorder, doing 10 things at once, working, checking emails, checking Facebook, Pinterest and other favourite social media outlets, updating our Linkedin. Reading a book helps destress you, focusing your mind down to first gear rather than running in third all the time, gives you mind and body time to relax, a single focus.

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3. Reading teaches us to actually read

As millennials we respond to infographics, visual content, quick to process, quick to scan. Reading a book involves a different skill, but we can enhance our vocabulary, our focus and concentration and our analytical skills. All of which, I think we would all agree has value in our lives and careers.

Reading skills are something we need to think about as we become parents, what habits will we pass to our children. Will we limit them if we are not seen to read or encourage reading? Now as adults, we have a wide range of access to books, either physically from bookshelves and libraries or digitally via our Ipad’s and ebook readers.

But be aware, for children, a study has indicated that an actual book is better than a screen. It is also said reading from a screen at night disturbs our sleep in a way, a book does not, but for those of you for whom a book is a step too far but want to read, don’t worry, there are things you can do that will allow you to sleep and read.

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There are a seemingly unending list of genres for the would-be reader, as millennials, we are masters at using the digital world for finding what we want, use to this knowledge to find books that suit you.

·         Use sites such as Amazon and Goodreads to identify the genres that interest you.

·         Find internet sites that offer free or reduced price books.

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·         Look for sites such as WordPad and be among the first to read novels by new writers and               established ones.

·         Use bookseller sites and review blogs to identify trending authors and upcoming novels.

·         Review the books you read, online, especially the authors you like, if you do, there is always             a good chance you will get the opportunity to receive an ARC to read, (Advance Reader’s                 Copy) which allows you to get free the newest novel from an author in return for a review.

Offline, start a book swap with friends to keep costs down and an informal book club is a great way to get together with mates and engage yourself with some great debate.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via images.unsplash.com

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

You may have heard someone say they are “totally right brained” or that they’re “a left brained person.”

There is a pervasive myth that’s been making its rounds for over a century: people have two hemispheres of their brains, and if they have a dominant left brain, they’re more analytical; and if they have a dominant right brain, they are more creative.

Before we go debunking this theory and then giving some tips for how people can access their creative brain centers, let’s first take a look at where the left brain/right brain lateralization theory comes from.

The Left Brain/Right Brain Lateralization Theory

In the 1800s, scientists discovered that when patients injured one side of their brains, certain skills were lost.[1] Scientists linked those different skills to one side of the brain or the other. Thus began the left brain/right brain myth that continues to this day.

Then, in the 1960s and 70s, Roger W. Sperry led 16 operations that cut the corpus callosum (the largest region that connects both brain hemispheres together) in order to try to treat patients’ epilepsy. Sperry wrote about the differences in the two hemispheres as a result of those surgeries.[2]

Sperry’s work was popularized in 1973 with a New York Times article about his lateralization theory—that people were either right brained (read: logical) or left brained (read: creative). From here, Sperry won the Nobel Prize for his work and numerous other publications spread the right brain/left brain myth.

Debunking the Right Brain/Left Brain Myth

If anything, the lateralization theory of the brain is a gross exaggeration. It is true that people have two hemispheres of their brains. It is also true that there are differences in the composition of those two hemispheres.

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However, the hemispheres are actually much more interconnected than Sperry’s work initially made it seem.

In a 2013 study,[3] scientists scanned over 1000 people’s brains, checking for lateralization. They confirmed that certain brain functions occur predominately in one hemisphere or the other but that, in reality, the brain is actually much more interconnected and complex than the right brain/left brain lateralization theory makes it seem.[4][5]

A New Metaphor for Right Brain/Left Brain

How do we get past this right brain/left brain myth?

First, let’s look at what contemporary cognitive science says about brain regions, and creative and logical modes of thinking.

My background is as an improviser and improv researcher. I wrote Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition and think looking at improvisation and the brain can shed light on a new model for talking about unlocking the brain’s creative potential.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans have shown that while trained improvisers improvise (musically on a keyboard, rapping, and comedic improvisation) an interesting shift happens in their brain activity. [6]

A region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreases in activity and creative language centers such as the medial prefrontal cortex increase in activity. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked with conscious thoughts—that inner voice that tells you not to say something or criticizes you when you do.

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The medial prefrontal cortex is among the brain regions linked with creativity. So, instead of thinking about right brain and left brain, perhaps it’s more current and correct to think about more specific brain regions instead of hemispheres. Perhaps, it’s more useful to think about which activities and strategies will allow us to inhibit our dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes and allow our medial prefrontal cortexes to flourish.

How to Enhance Your “Right Brain” — Creativity

Whether we’re talking about right brain versus left brain, creative versus logical, or medial prefrontal cortex versus dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, we still know enough to talk about strategies to tap into your creative brain’s full potential.

So, now that we’ve dispelled the right brain/left brain myth and looked at a more contemporary, cognitive neuroscience theory of brain regions and creativity centers, let’s look at how to tap into the potential of your creative brain.

1. Performing Arts

One way to tap into your creative brain centers is to participate in the performing arts. Whether you improvise, act, or dance, the performing arts allow you an embodied experience that will help you snap out of your habitual, logical thoughts.

Another benefit of the performing arts is that it changes your attention. Attention and creativity are inextricably linked. When we improvise, act, or dance, we have to focus intently on our fellow performers. This means we are forced to focus less on our conscious, logical thoughts. This frees us up for more creative thinking and expression.[7]

One of the conclusions of my research on improvisation is that focusing intensely on fellow improvisers and the task at hand makes it more likely that we experience a flow state. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi,[8] a Professor of Psychology and Management defines flow as an optimal psychological state when our skills match the difficulty of the task at hand. Our perception of time is altered as we get into the zone and become more present and in the moment during our chosen activity.[9]

A flow state is a creative state. It’s the opposite of crunching numbers and forcing ourselves to work out a problem with the conscious regions of our brain. So, get up, improvise, act, or dance to access your creativity.

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2. Visual Art

Art teacher Betty Edwards[10] wrote a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Here again, we see that a shift in our attention can lead us to an increase in our creative thinking.

Edwards’ book gives art students tricks to shift the way they see the world. For example, one exercise encourages students to literally flip whatever it is they’re drawing upside down before they draw it. This forces budding artists to literally see the object in a new way. This shift allows them to focus more on the individual components and patterns of the object, which allows them to draw it better.

Shifting how we see things is another way we can access our creative brain centers. Take an art class to shut off your conscious, critical thoughts and start seeing things from a new, more creative perspective.

3. Zone Out

If there’s one thing creativity doesn’t like, it’s being coerced.

I think we’ve all felt that awful feeling of trying to force ourselves to be creative. When we force it, we’re really trying to force our logical brain regions to be creative. It’s like asking your gardener to perform your appendix surgery. It’s just not what she does.

Instead, stop forcing it. Take a break. Take a long walk or a relaxing bath or shower. Let your mind wander.

Whatever you do, stop forcing it. This break lets your creative centers rise to the surface of your attention and get heard.

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4. Practice Mindfulness

The final trick to start accessing your so-called right brain is to practice mindfulness.

Now, there’s a lot of different ways to go about mindfulness. You can take a more physical approach with a yoga class. Or you can try meditating to become more aware and in tune with your thoughts and feelings: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

You could also try to incorporate fun mindfulness exercises[11] into your everyday routine like forcing yourself to go on detours or pretending you’re a detective who needs to examine people and places closely.

Any way you do it, mindfulness exercises and training can help you become better versed in how your brain works and what your normal thought process is like on a day-to-day basis. If we’re ever going to reach our optimal creativity, we have to become an expert in how our individual brain functions. Mindfulness is one way to become your very own brain expert.

Mindfulness also has added benefits like calming us, slowing our breathing, and helping us become more observant, which are also great ways to start tapping into our creative potential.

Final Thoughts

So, it may not be correct to say that our right brain is our creative brain, but it is still a valid pursuit to try to optimize our creative brain centers.

The key to do so is to relax, become observant, shift your perspective, move your body, try something new, and, whatever you do, don’t force it.

Creativity can feel slippery. It can abandon us when we need it most, but by slowing down and looking at things from a new perspective, we can give ourselves a better chance of tapping into our ultimate creativity, even if that doesn’t exactly mean our “right brain.”

More Tips on Boosting Creativity

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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