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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 March 13, 2019

        How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

        How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

        Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

        You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

        Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

        1. Work on the small tasks.

        When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

        Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

        2. Take a break from your work desk.

        Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

        Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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        3. Upgrade yourself

        Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

        The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

        4. Talk to a friend.

        Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

        Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

        5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

        If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

        Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

        Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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        6. Paint a vision to work towards.

        If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

        Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

        Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

        7. Read a book (or blog).

        The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

        Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

        Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

        8. Have a quick nap.

        If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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        9. Remember why you are doing this.

        Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

        What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

        10. Find some competition.

        Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

        Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

        11. Go exercise.

        Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

        Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

        As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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        Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

        12. Take a good break.

        Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

        Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

        Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

        Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

        More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

        Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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