How to get out your head (or the part that’s worrying you)

The black hole I get from flicking between internet sites is a certain kind of unfocused anxiety. Drawing is a great way to calm it.

The black hole I get from flicking between internet sites is a certain kind of unfocused anxiety. Drawing is a great way to calm it.

Simple: Draw.

Worry is thought, going round and round. I know it, the pain of decisionmaking becoming overwhelming. Or of trying to figure out vocational questions – what should I be doing with my life??- as if my head were a coconut I were trying to crack. As if the answer would score me points on Countdown. Trying to fit all the pieces of your life together. Trying to plan out the next year or two, to do the maths – if I do this, there will be this outcome, but if I do that, I’ll end up there… right? You know that feeling, right? Right. You’re in the left hemisphere of your brain, the part that tries to work it all out. It’s a hugely valuable part of us, but sometimes it circulates and we need to give it a rest. What does it do? I don’t know.

Drawing is thought to shift your perception into a different side of the brain.

Does the side-of-the-brain theory define your personal strengths? 

When you look at brain function, the theory that the left brain is the procedural, step-by step analyser, and the right is the image-based perceiver is really fascinating. I’m not sure if I’m down with the theory that one half dominates your personality, there is doubt cast here on Psyblog. But I haven’t yet ready a study that refutes the idea that you might spend more of your life in one hemisphere than the other.

Apparently, whichever side you (mostly) are operating in, your brain automatically shifts increases blood circulation to the opposite side of the brain every 90 to 120 minutes so you can switch over. I read that in life coach Tim Brownson’s ebook, 70 amazing facts about your brain. (If you’re interested in looking it up, it’s fact number 4). He says that in one nostril, air flows more easily than in another, due to vascular constriction. The side where the blood vessels are more constricted allows air to pass through it more easily. Brownson says:

“Vascular constriction is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which is one of the few parts of the brain that doesn’t cross over. In other words, if your right nasal passage has constricted blood vessels, then so does the right side of your brain. Which means that you are predominantly using the opposite hemisphere of your brain”.

It all comes back to the breath

Oh, right! So that’s what ‘alternate nostril breathing’ in yoga does for you. Gives a bit of oxygen to the opposite side of the brain. I did wonder if it was bunkum. I’ll give it a bit more credo next time we do it.

Brownson also suggests that you can tell, therefore, which side of your brain dominates by closing your mouth and breathing in both nostrils and feeling which one the air flow is smoother in. (Your ‘side’ would be the same as the easy breathing nostril).

I once did a course on Drawing on the right side of your brain. It had exercises like looking at the object you were drawing upside down, or only drawing the negative space – things that would shift your perception away from the framework of what you thought you knew you were seeing and into a more ‘whole’ perception. It was a long time ago. Have you done it? Would you recommend it?

Drawing is healing

Let your mind rest. Let it sink into the drawing. Let yourself doodle and play with colours. When I do this, I calm the frick down.

My dad recently had a freak toe infection (a decorative ceramic plate in the bathroom fell off the wall and a shard cut him! Some things in life there is no way of anticipating) and he was laid up for weeks. He’s a woodworker. Anyway, one day, in his father’s spare room where he was staying, he found a box of chalk pastels and decided to draw a picture. He loved it. It took his mind off it (there are only so many hours in the day you can read for), and passed the time, and so he did it again the next day and the next. It turned his convalescence into something pleasurable. He hadn’t drawn for years and years, aside from the odd birthday card, or the dogs and cyclopses we’d demand he’d draw for us when we were kids.

I suppose this is the principle of art therapy in action!

I recommend drawing. For fun. For sanity. For rest. For recuperation. For freeing things up. For the hell of it. If you don’t have time to do a ten-minute drawing, do a two-minute drawing.

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And if you want a list of things to draw, it’s not too late to join the October Big Draw event, Draw with me on Illustrated Guide to Life – you don’t need to sign up, just look at the list and get going, in your own way! The list is centred around drawing your future.

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And if you’re drawing this month, I’d love to know: what’s it doing for you? Is it doing what you hoped it would? Click on the pale grey dot with a plus sign under the post to open the comments section.