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10 Popular Myths About Right Brain Left Brain Debunked

10 Popular Myths About Right Brain Left Brain Debunked

Want to learn how to master your brain and navigate effortlessly away from the common mix-ups most people have?

Then you’re in the right place.

I’m going to expose the 10 biggest myths about the brain, including ones you hear about being a “right brain or left brain” person.

And for each one, you’ll learn some proven ways to counter them too.

So without further ado, let’s do this!

Myth #1: Believing you’re either a “left or right brain” person

Chances are, once upon a time, during your happy musings on the internet, you came across the idea of the right brain left brain.

This is the myth that you’re either a logical facts driven person (left brain), or you’re a intuitive, arts and imagination type person (right brain).

It’s not true.

Your brain is a very intricate and complex organ. Despite decades of research and study, the brain is something that we still know relatively little about.

Even so, just google “right brain left brain characteristics” and you’re bombarded with pages and pages of results. Each one claiming to tell you which one you are.

This left brain right brain idea originated back in the 1960s, as a result of research done by Roger W. Sperry.[1]

It’s well known that the right and left sides of our brains are different, but can we group people into the left brain people and the right brain people? Is it that simple?

A team of neuroscientists at the University of Utah spent two years testing this out, studying over 1,000 people’s brains to see if it was indeed true. What their research revealed, was that both sides were more or less equal in their activity on average.

“Language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right. But people don’t tend to have a stronger left- or right-sided brain network. It seems to be determined more connection by connection.”  – Dr. Jeff Anderson (lead author)[2]

So be careful when surfing the interwebs. The self proclaimed brain messiah’s aren’t always doing their research, and whilst graphics like above seem cool, they aren’t very accurate. You don’t belong in a box of left brain or right brain.

Lesson:

People aren’t either logical or creative. You can be both.

Don’t limit your thinking and capabilities by believing this myth. You get better at what you work at.

Myth #2: Believing you’re hardwired for happiness

Many people I’ve coached over the years demonstrate this crippling flaw:

We tend to think of our problems, worries, etc. as something unique to us. We mistakenly believe that we are unique in this way.

However, let me reveal something to you having worked with tens of THOUSANDS people from around the world. Something which may surprise you.

Our mental biases and flaws are quite common. We tend to make very similar mistakes.

Instead of personalizing all your problems and over identifying with them. What if you saw the challenges you face as problems created by the brain generally, instead of something you are doing?

Think of it this way:

Imagine you have a faulty mobile phone that can only operate for 2 hours at 100% capacity at a time. Then it needs a short break.

Now, you could view this as a problem with your specific mobile, and get angry and frustrated that you had such bad luck.

Or perhaps, realize the truth.

What if it was just a manufacturing fault? But one you can’t “fix” immediately by going to the Apple Store because it was built two million years ago for a different environment.

Obviously I’m simplifying things a little (Ok, a lot). However the point I’m making is simple:

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Your problems aren’t unique. We all suffer from them. So plan for the common pitfalls so you can avoid them.

“We have a two million-year-old brain that isn’t designed to be happy, but to survive.”  — Tony Robbins

As the above quote so beautifully summarizes, your brain is designed to help you to survive first and foremost. This mechanism is both deep and complex.

In my work, we often identify these subconscious patterns and make sure they’re running in alignment to the specific goal you desire to achieve.

Something which most people are totally unaware or uninterested in discovering, so they are doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again no matter how hard they try.

These “software faults” are ones we all experience from time to time:

  • Not feeling motivated to go to the gym
  • Not feeling confident about starting a new project or idea
  • Being randomly affected by weird moods or feelings

But the difference between those who succeed, and those who dabble and get frustrated is simple:

Working on our weak areas consistently and planning for them.

Lesson:

Think of your brain like an old computer, full of some common bugs and viruses we all contend with.

Accept these flaws, learn about how they manifest themselves for you in particular, then work on improving them so you can perform better.

Myth #3: Believing your personality traits are fixed

You have personality traits (often from childhood) that (for most) won’t change.

But before you get demoralized and reach for that jar of chocolate chip cookies again, that doesn’t mean that you CAN’T change.

It just takes work.

Realistically, most people still won’t change their personalities for two reasons:

  • They like the safe, comfortable option of staying the same (let’s face it – it’s quite easy)
  • They don’t know they can change

Fortunately for you, we’ve already dispelled the idea that you cannot change your personality traits. So you’re immediately ahead of most people.

There are so many different theories and ideas about what your personality is, how we can measure it and how it comes to be.

The general consensus is that it’s shaped in the early years of our lives and (generally) stays stable over time.

The most widely accepted is something known as the “Five Factor Model”, stating that there are five basic personality traits that can define us: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

These traits shape and influence how we react to different experiences and events in our lifetime.

But here’s the thing:

Defining events, traumatic experiences can all trigger changes in who we are, and how we are.

One of the latest study integrating 14 longitudinal studies that gathered information about people’s personalities, found that from the Big Five personality traits — all of them showed major fluctuations across individual participants’ lives.[3]

Lesson:

The best way to think of your personality is like a mould of clay. It’s already in a rough shape, hardening over time. But you can work to change and adjust it.

Myth #4: Believing you only use 10% of your brain

This myth is simply not true. If I cut 90% of your brain out, would you still function?

No!

Imagine that what is known about our brains is like the volume inside a balloon.

Imagine that what is unknown is the infinite space outside of the balloon.

The surface of the balloon, the interface between the known and the unknown, represents questions. The larger the volume inside the balloon, the larger the balloon surface.

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The more we know, the more questions we have.

It’s simply not true that we only use 10% of our brains.

What’s more accurate is that we don’t always perform to our maximum mental capacities.

Different factors — motivation, environment, overall health, sleep — all exert different levels of influence on how close to 100% we perform at any given time.

So why does this myth exist? Why is it so appealing?

Probably because of the untapped human potential it implies that we have huge pools of dormant mental powers, which if used, could help us achieve so much more.

Lesson:

We don’t just use 10% of our brains. We use 100% of them.

But not all of us are performing and achieving to our highest standards. Find out what blocks you have and work at improving every day.

Myth #5: Believing that smart people have bigger brains

When it comes to size, we’re obsessed with believing that bigger is better.

The simple fact is that a bigger brain has no ultimate bearing or indication on our intelligence.

A very easy way to debunk this myth is to look at the animal kingdom. A cow has a bigger brain than a chimpanzee. But is it smarter?

A whale or an elephant have a bigger brain than a human. But are they smarter?

Many neuroscientists now agree that it isn’t size, but the complexity of neural connections that truly determine a brain’s capacity and potential.

To translate this, it’s not size that matters most. It’s how efficiently different parts of your brain communicate with each other.

Lesson:

It’s not how big your brain is that matters most, but how well the different parts communicate.

Train your brain to connect different ideas, senses, intelligences together and keep learning everyday.

Myth #6: Believing women and men have different brains

Of all the myths here, this perhaps is one of the most damaging.

It sets you up to behave according to a preconceived idea of how you should or shouldn’t behave based on your sex.

Let’s start with what is true.

Yes, there are some very very minor anatomical differences between male and female brains.

However, this difference has never been linked to a difference in ability. What we do know, is that any distinction which is created is the by product of our own cultural conditioning.

If there is a difference, or inequality, it is one created by our society.

A common misconception is that women do better when you test them accordingly to emotional intelligence and empathy. The anatomy of the brain runs counter to this however.

The hippocampus, associated with memory, is typically larger in women, while the amygdala, involved in emotion, is larger in men, which is quite contrary to the myth.

Lesson:

Your sex does not determine what you are fated to be good or bad at. It’s often the result of our cultural conditioning.

Reflect on your own gender biases and avoid stereotyping yourself or others based on this.

Myth #7: Believing you know what makes you happy

This probably surprised you a little, didn’t it?

Deep breaths. Allow me to explain:

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We commonly believe that we know exactly what will make us happy and unhappy.

The truth however is that this isn’t (totally) true. We massively overestimate how happy we think something will make us feel — gifts, promotions, marriages, divorces — you name it.

Even when it comes to money, countless studies have shown that beyond a certain point (around 77,000USD/year), money doesn’t really make us that much happier.

Conversely, the things that we fear and avoid don’t make us as unhappy as we expect.

The commute on a Monday morning is nowhere near as bad as we think, nor is the awkward conversation with an estranged family member or friend.

The most soul crushing tragedies — breakups, losing a loved one — cause us despair and grief, but don’t last as long as we anticipate.

Lesson:

Things are never as bad as they first seem, or as good as they first seem. You’re not that good at predicting how you will feel, or felt about the future or the past.

Myth #8: Believing you lose mental power over time

When we’re young, it’s easier to take risks and try new things to some degree. But as we age, we seek our comfort and routines.

Until eventually, those same patterns and routines become shackles.

Maybe that’s why you haven’t:

  • Stuck to that workout or yoga routine you want to get better at.
  • Finished the book you say you want to write and publish.
  • Started that business idea you’re thinking and talking about so often.

Many people fall into this trap of believing they “lose it” over time, and this mental error quickly sends them on a downward spiral of stagnation and mediocrity.

I want you to realize something:

Your brain and intelligence can get better with age.

So be excited, not demoralized!

It’s well known in business circles for example, that you get better as an entrepreneur as you age. The same is true in so many other fields too.

Of course there are some cognitive skills which decline in efficiency as you age – learning new languages, memorising a list of random words, counting backward by sevens.

But who cares?

Vocabulary, judgement of character, social wisdom, conflict resolution, emotional regulation and finding purpose – these are all skills that matter, which we are proven to get better at over time.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

Well, let me take you a step further.

Not only can you get smarter over time, you can even continue (literally) growing your brain.

A brain which is active, for example learning new languages, trying new skills and hobbies, develops a richer connected network of brain cells. Taking it further, this “brain growth” also helps to prevent dementia and other diseases.

So no, it is not true that your mental decline is inevitable. Quite the opposite, the effects can be stopped and even reversed through mental exercise. The best part is you don’t even need to do it for that long.

In a study of more than 3,000 people aged 65 and over, just 10 hours training over several weeks in memory, problem-solving and decision-making resulted in significant and prolonged increases in cognitive ability.

Lesson:

Spend 10 to 15 minutes daily working on your memory, problem solving and decision making.

One of my favourites (which is a lot of fun) is to play Chess puzzles for free on lichess.com.

Myth #9: Believing there are 5 senses & one measure of intelligence

What if I told you that you don’t have just 5 senses? And school only tested you on one measure of intelligence?

Would you believe me?

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A commonly held belief that most of us have is that we have 5 senses and one type of intelligence.

It’s not your fault either, our entire paradigm of education only ever tests us on one “type” of intelligence” – via exams and essays. When in actuality, there are eight types of intelligence.

Just think:

There’s probably a type of intelligence that you may be a genius in, that you were never even tested on in school.

A comforting thought for those of us who didn’t ace every math or english test.

Additionally, there are not just 5 senses. But six more:

  1. Equilibrioception: A sense of balance, otherwise known as your internal GPS.
  2. Proprioception: A sense of where your body parts are and what they’re doing.
  3. Nociception: A sense of pain.
  4. Thermo(re)ception: A sense of temperature.
  5. Chronoception: A sense of the passage of time.
  6. Interoception: A sense of your internal needs, like hunger, thirst, needing to use the bathroom, etc.

The most fascinating part is that when we contrast this to other species, there are so many more senses we don’t have. Bats and dolphins can use sonar to find prey, sharks can sense electrical fields, and birds and turtles can even orient to the earth’s magnetic fields.

If anything, this displays how much more there is to know that we cannot even comprehend.

Here’s a philosophical quote that builds on this idea, from one of my favourite wise men, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev:

“You are seeking the infinite through the physical. Can the physical ever become infinite? The physical is finite, always within a finite boundary, it can never be infinite. It’s like you are riding a bullock cart but your destination is the moon, and somebody is saying buy yourself a new whip. If your destination is the moon, you need an appropriate vehicle. So through the physical if you are seeking the infinite, there will only be frustration.”

Lesson:

You are more intelligent than you may know. You have more senses than you know. But equally, there are vast oceans of unknowns too that you can’t comprehend.

Keep expanding and learning constantly, don’t rest on the knowledge you have. Strive to unlearn and learn simultaneously. Stay humble.

Myth #10: Believing your memories are accurate

This last myth is quite mind blowing.

What if I told you that your memories are not real? And that each time you access them, the more distorted they become?

If we just take a glance of the various types of biases that the brain has – there are at least 20!

There’re so many different ways in which the brain we have, has small errors or faults built into it.

And here is just one of them:

Every time you access memories, you project your current feelings and mindset onto that memory. As a result, your memory itself changes.

Mind blowing, right?

But how does this help you?

Well each time you look back on an experience, you are changing it. This means you can’t accurately predict or recall how things really were.

Knowing this, how much more important are those seemingly menial things like:

  • Creating a daily journal of what you are thinking, feeling and planning to look back on later.
  • Keeping clear and up to date records of your workout progression.
  • Tracking your to do lists, goals and plans throughly to keep yourself focused.

Lesson:

You aren’t able to recall things as accurately as you might think. So take diligent notes always in everything you do.

From your feelings, hopes and dreams to your day to day budgeting, to-do lists and more. These written records will help you remember things more accurately!

Have you found yourself understand a lot more about your brain? The most popular myths about left brain and right brain are now busted. It’s your turn to really develop your brain’s potential and don’t get restricted by those myths!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Keshav Bhatt

Writer, Social Entrepreneur, Accredited Life Coach & NLP Practitioner

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

5 Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude

5 Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude

Cultivating a positive mental attitude starts with a realization — a realization that you’re not the only one who has struggled, who has survived, and who has started over again. You are not alone, and there is a way through the darkness. There is simple wisdom, which can be relied upon, to help.

Find support, but also learn self-care in how you treat yourself which is what positivity is all about. That self talk, that perception, that attitude you choose changes you and changes those around you.

According to New Stanford Study: A Positive Attitude Literally Makes Your Brain Better by Jessica Stillman,[1] Stanford researchers studies how the brain was impacted in achievement and learning when one felt or was positive about a subject. The result? Outcomes were much more favorable for that student.

We do well in areas we are positive about. But what if we can choose to be positive about, well, anything? That would change everything.

Positivity is not about just being happy, which is often the misconception. In fact, acknowledging a range of emotions is healthy. Positivity is persistence while using positive thinking strategies. It is sitting with your feelings; it is acceptance of what is; it is holding onto what makes you happy; it is purpose found in pain.

And the reasoning behind choosing to be positive — you get what you give. You receive what you believe.

Here’re 5 steps to cultivate a positive mental attitude. In part, they detail why it’s important to be positive as an understanding assists in the pursuit as much as the adoption of the mindset.

1. Know That You Can Change Your Attitude

There’s a Maya Angelou quote that goes:

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

When you choose positivity as your attitude, you select an attitude far more destined for resilient behavior than the alternative.

When you have a negative attitude, your brain gives itself permission to develop negative thinking patterns and in turn, difficult and dark emotions. You spend all your days ruminating, or worrying about the same thing over and over again, thinking that will solve it. Doing this will cause you to miss the answers rather than make the most of the moments in front of you.

In actuality, the first thing you need to do is calm yourself. It feels counterintuitive, but that means to release your troubled mentality. When you release what is bothering you, you choose a safer attitude. One that helps you to accept your emotions, accept what is happening and accept that you don’t have all the answers. You’re less afraid of that fact.

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Attitude is everything. It’s how we heal ourselves. It’s how we stay positive. It’s how we secure things. It’s how we overcome.

Without a positive attitude, we cannot persevere. Perseverance is the point of positivity.

A positive attitude is how we fuel willpower. Willpower is how we fuel positivity. It goes in a circle. They are interchangeable.

Positivity denotes willpower. You can be standing in a storm and feel completely calm when you use positivity. You stay grounded. You stand firm. You do not fall over. And you know what? Even if you do, you get back up again.

There is a Japanese proverb, “Nana korobi ya oki” which means fall seven times, get up eight. This means you do not stop; you keep going. You make it through the hard times to find the good.

A positive attitude is about understanding you have power over your problems. Once you understand that, you can change your attitude. You have to choose positive thinking first in order to reap its benefits. Once you’ve chosen to be positive, you can do anything.

2. Find Your Unique Meaning in Life

When you have lost it all, a positive attitude can help you regain it or to regain your strength. It’s the best way to live. It’s the best way to learn from life and love. When you are positive, you have a power that circumstance nor others cannot take from you.

Recognizing the power you have to carry on, to make the best of things, to keep going when everything inside you wants to quit is worth everything.

You can’t always have it all, but you can always have a positive attitude. This in itself helps you stand out, helps you to shine. It’s enough to save yourself (and others potentially) with. That power keeps you grounded and safe.

For example, say you lost someone to a disease. Instead of just thinking about the loss and seeing it as the end, a positive person may decide to contribute to a cause dedicated to that disease. In doing so, the positive person becomes a beacon of hope. They become a voice for something which in turn gives them power over their hardship.

This is how people keep going: Meaning. Meaning creates a power over our emotions, over our loss so that they do not define us.

According to the Mayo Clinic, positivity affects one’s stress levels and overall health.[2] It is that powerful. When you are positive about a situation, you are less stressful and more calm and able to reason better to solve the very problem in front of you.

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Cultivating this power is about realizing a sense of meaning can be derived from all circumstances, even senseless tragedies. People often contribute to something greater than themselves when they are searching for meaning, for purpose, for positivity, for power.

You don’t always have to have a reason for why something happens, but you can use whatever happens for a greater cause. It’s subjective, changing from person to person. That’s why no matter how much you want to derive meaning from an event, there are no outright answers about how to do that.

So, what do you do? Meditate. Listen.

“Whatever purifies you is the right path, I will not try to define it. Let go of your mind then be mindful. Close your ears and listen.” — Rumi

3. Be Absolutely Present

In life, you have control over your ability to be present in the moment, even if not control over everything. You have the moment.

Positivity is telling yourself that this moment is what matters. You can’t regret the past or see the future. The only way to be positive is to be here. What do you have right in front of you? Suddenly, your life shifts to gratitude.

Gratitude serves us in letting go of what we do not need. Listing what makes us happy is one way to stay present. What do you have right now that you can use? You have the tools to be positive.

Some techniques to getting there are through meditations or mantras. For example, “Nothing bad is happening right now” is an easy one to incorporate. Your past traumas can’t trip you when you ground yourself in the present, and your ability to reason further develops to the point that even if you can’t see the future, you know it will play out like this– with you empowered and in the moment, using all your wisdom and tools and positivity to persevere. That’s all you need.

Focus on the moment. In a blog about Mindfulness, Courtney Ackerman writes that one such exercise is to live in the moment to reduce worrying.[3] Think about the past and future in small, manageable doses. But focus mostly on the present, what is happening right here and now. This will reduce worrying and therefore stress as well as other negative emotions significantly.

This will allow you to be positive.

4. Practice Self-Love

Self-talk is the core of self-love, the core of what positivity is all about. Positive self-talk leads to self-love. And when our own cup is empty, we can pour into another’s. We have to help ourselves first before we can help others.

What we say to ourselves is how we practice positivity or put it into action.

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For example, there’s a children’s book called The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper where the train thinks, “I think I can, I think I can” the whole way through its travels. The result? It could because it told itself that it can.

Such a simple concept for a complex world. And yet, it works.

This is also how self-love works. What you tell yourself is powerful and makes its mark. Here are examples of things you could tell yourself to practice positivity:

  • I am enough.
  • I am worthwhile.
  • I can do this, I just have to hold on.
  • I will make it through this.
  • I am powerful.
  • I am unstoppable.

Here’re more examples for you: 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life. Add to this list with your own!

When you write these positive mantras, you start to feel them. If you write “I am positive about this situation” enough times, you will start to feel that positivity seep in.

Loving yourself is not going to be easy nor come overnight. There will be a mess of feelings, regrets, negative self talk and more that you will have to carefully tip toe through to hold your own heart. Your heart needs love, and often, we deny what it needs in pursuit of purposeless pleasures such as external rewards rather than internal motivation for a life well lived. We live for what others think of us, say about us, and sometimes, losing it all or going through hardship can teach us what we really need: ourselves.

Loving yourself needs to come from an authentic place, not a “fake it til you make it” mentality. It needs to be real. It needs to include those flaws and all. That’s all you can do to become positive about yourself. You have to start within and do the work necessary to heal and be healthy.

Try these 30 Ways To Practice Self-Love And Be Good To Yourself.

5. Avoid Toxic Positivity (Unhealthy Positivity)

Avoid the white knuckling type of positivity where you don’t acknowledge your struggles or pain (as they also serve you). You don’t just want to tell yourself to move on because that equates to repression.

Emotions are part of positivity. You want to sit with your feelings. You want to acknowledge them, give them a voice. Instead of telling yourself to move on, you let your emotions lead to a breakthrough that helps you cope with the changes of life.

The greatest misconceptions made about being positive is assuming one does not have to feel in order to change. Throwing away hurt, anger, grief, sadness, all those emotions we associate with being “negative” only thwart our growth and power. Positivity is USING these things to better yourself or the world around you because you’re not going to give in to them. They do not become you or your identity.

You don’t have to be the white knuckling soldier you’ve always been. You say your emotions, then follow up with a use or outlet for them. That makes your positivity profound.

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Positivity is not about wearing a mask; it is the opposite of a mask. It is freedom from negative thinking strategies such as jumping to conclusions, black or white thinking, worst case scenario assumptions and more. It’s acknowledging that there may be more strength or ability in you than previously assumed. And it’s worth it to find out.

Toxic positivity may suggest you simply put a smile on and act fine. That’s not real positivity. Healthy positivity is about showing up when you’re tired; loving when you are feeling loss; healing when you want to cling to your hurt. It’s realization that you are worth it, not worth writing off. And you care about the outcome, so you stay to sort it out. You don’t abandon or jump ship. You hold on. That’s healthy positivity.

So that one day you may say to others, “I see you. I feel you. I understand you,” because you have been where they are and got through it. It’s acknowledging the dark as much as the light.

It’s living so others may live; it’s all you need. It’s not an exact formula everyone can replicate, and no one can copy you either. Your story is important. You are meant to be here. You are meant to do well. It will be those thoughts that get you to the finish line. Thriving.

Final Thoughts

In every moment, you’re not going to want to be positive. There will be times when you want to throw in the towel. But even then, choosing your attitude, recognizing the power of positivity, being absolutely present, practicing self-love and avoiding toxic or unhealthy positivity will better your days and assist through your trials.

Being positive isn’t easy, but it’s worth it to see what is going to happen next. Just around the corner may be the change you need, but you’ll never know if you don’t hold on to find out.

Positivity is about being curious enough to stay for the outcome because you simply believe, hold onto and trust in yourself and some goodness in this world. That’s enough to keep one going, and enough to help them go from surviving to thriving which is where you want to be.

Everyone has low moments. There’s nothing to be ashamed of for that. You can feel negative emotions though without shaming yourself for them by practicing healthy positivity. These steps are how to cultivate a positive mental attitude.

That way you don’t live with regret. You live in the moment. You make the decision how.

You can start at anytime. Positivity can be like a switch of perception. Once you uplift yourself, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. And soon, you’ll be onto uplifting others which helps even more.

Positivity is contagious. It spreads like sunlight over the darkness. You can be the source of that sunlight. All you have to do is simple: Believe you can.

Good luck!

More About Positivity

Featured photo credit: Court Prather via unsplash.com

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