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Learn How to Juggle and Improve Your Brain’s Power

Learn How to Juggle and Improve Your Brain’s Power

Learning to juggle can do you all sorts of favours—not only does it look great it’s also a form of enjoyable, and challenging, exercise. Just as importantly, recent scientific studies have linked juggling to major health benefits. We’ll reveal how this skill can improve your mental acuity (which we back up with handy scientific knowhow), and we’ll also provide you with a basic guide on how to master the art of juggling.

Juggling and your Brain

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    In The Science of Juggling (Peter J. Beek and Arthur Lewbel, 1995) ithe earliest depiction of juggling is from antiquity, circa 1781 B.C. In the tomb of an unknown Prince a piece of artwork was discovered displaying Egyptian women juggling amongst each other, clearly indicating this famous ability is an ancient skill. However, despite the amount of time humans have been juggling, the first scientific research into the process only occurred in 1903. In this study Edgar James Swift published an article in the American Journal of Psychology suggesting that there were benefits of juggling for the human brain. Further research was held in the following decades, and by the 1980s mathematical formulas were being investigated by scientists such as Paul Klimek. His work involved the meticulous analysis of juggling patterns; in extensive diagrams he revealed the numerical order in which items are thrown and caught, the name given to these patterns being “site-swap”.

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    Contemporary studies are ongoing and have primarily focused on the health benefits for the brain, with the most revealing results coming from Oxford University in 2009. Dr. Heidi Johansen-Berg’s investigation finally proved the actions involved in juggling lead to “changes in the white matter of the brain”. As the doctor clarified, “We have demonstrated that there are changes in the white matter of the brain—the bundles of nerve fibres that connect different parts of the brain—as a result of learning an entirely new skill.” From this research it is evident the mental processes involved in successful juggling improve the connectivity of the brain. Juggling specialists, such as JuggleFit, have clarified the activity will help: relieve stress, fight off Alzheimer’s disease, sharpen concentration, increase dexterity, ward off food cravings, and assist in the cessation of smoking. Obviously you can achieve many of these health benefits by simply keeping yourself active, as Dr. Johansen-Berg clarifies, “there is a ‘use it or lose it’ school of thought, in which any way of keeping the brain working is a good thing, such as going for a walk or doing a crossword.” Unlike these activities, it seems that the activity of juggling has particular significance for the human brain as it encourages nerve fibre growth. This promotes overall brain fitness and, as many scientists believe, can help ward off debilitating illnesses as a result. It has been postulated the practice of distinguishing between individual juggling balls is what promotes this nerve fibre growth, although it is clear more research is needed in order to fully understand just how juggling can help the human brain and its vast complexities. However, Dr. Johansen-Berg remains positive for the potential of juggling as a meditative aid, “Knowing that pathways in the brain can be enhanced may be significant in the long run in coming up with new treatments for neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, where these pathways become degraded.”

    This research suggests there are numerous promising and powerful healing abilities to tap into here, and with this in mind there is only the final issue of taking up this ancient trick yourself and learning how to juggle. We’ll give you a helping hand.

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    Learn How To Juggle

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      As noted on Juggling.org, “It is essential to practise in order to learn juggling. The simplest movement requires complex electrical/chemical circuitry within the brain. The study of this circuitry is fast becoming an important field of neuroscience.” From my experience I’d consider it vital to remember you will need patience when practicing—as a beginner, you will make a lot of mistakes. Whilst every individual will learn at a different rate, I found it took a few days of 30 minute sessions to build a clumsy technique up, and around a week to get the three ball cascade perfected.

      The professionals put it this way, “Jugglers learn in a narrow focus situation. Recall how most people learn to read. First, they learn to recognize the letters (the ball or pin). Then they learn to recognize the word (the juggling pattern). However, once this basic juggling “pattern” (the word) has been learned, then the focus can shift to a higher level still (the words become a sentence). An example of this would be a juggler on a rola-bola [a balance board].” As the experts confirm, the only way to get anywhere with your juggling is to practice, “Neuroscience tells us practice creates or builds the desired pathways in the brain.” Once your mind understands these new electronic impulses then you will find yourself well on your way!

      So how should you start out? Firstly you will need to get some beanbag juggling balls (pictured above—they’re cheap), or you could use household objects such as oranges, apples, or tennis balls. When you’re happy with your equipment take a look below at the perpetual motion image. This is the three ball cascade you’ll be learning; use this as a visual guide as it will prove very useful as a reference.

        1. Get the basic “feel” of the process by throwing a ball in an arc from one hand to the other; it should rise up to eye height at the peak of its arc.
        2. A great method to perfect juggling is “scooping”, a technique that smooths out your movements. Scoop your hands when throwing back and forth as it helps greatly with overall fluidity.
        3. Now, with one juggling ball in each hand, throw one in an arc towards your other hand. When it is at the top of its arc lower your other arm to launch the other ball towards your free hand. As each follows its arc catch them in your hands. Practice this to increase your understanding of the motions involved.
        4. Now try for the 3 ball cascade; hold two juggling balls in your right hand, and one in your left. As practised in point 3, throw one ball in a sweeping arc from your right hand. When it has reached the peak of its arc, send the ball in your left hand to your right.
        5. Catch the first ball in your left hand whilst the second is arching upwards towards your right, now launch the third ball in your right hand towards the left and prepare to catch the second. Use the perpetual motion diagram above for visual assistance, and remember practice makes perfect! In a short space of time you’ll have a great new skill.

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        Alex Morris

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        Last Updated on September 20, 2018

        How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

        How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

        Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

        If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

        1. Breathe

        The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

        • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
        • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
        • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

        Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

        2. Loosen up

        After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

        Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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        3. Chew slowly

        Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

        Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

        Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

        4. Let go

        Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

        The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

        It’s not. Promise.

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        Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

        Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

        21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

        5. Enjoy the journey

        Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

        Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

        6. Look at the big picture

        The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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        Will this matter to me…

        • Next week?
        • Next month?
        • Next year?
        • In 10 years?

        Hint: No, it won’t.

        I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

        Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

        7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

        You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

        Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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        8. Practice patience every day

        Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

        • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
        • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
        • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

        Final thoughts

        Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

        Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

        Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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