Famosa restaurant has got it right. I looked around the restaurant on a recent visit and didn’t see any kids with glowing faces – softly illuminated by their phones or iPads. Instead, I saw kids flipping, kneading and enjoying their idle time playing with a small slab of pizza dough. How brilliant.

From a brain development perspective, this bi-lateral use of both their left and right hands, back-and-forth, back-and-forth… is extremely good for brain health. More specifically, it’s ideal for brain “integration”. Brain integration is when the logical left hemisphere of the brain, communicates with the emotional right hemisphere. The neural connections created when the two hemispheres “talk to each other” is known to calm the brain, reduce stress and improve well-being.

Each brain hemisphere plays significantly different roles:

The left hemisphere is in charge of these areas (most refer to it  as ‘The Engineer’s Brain’):

  • Logistics
  • Linear thinking
  • Lists
  • Reason
  • Order
  • Repetition
  • Language
  • Math

The right hemisphere is in charge of these areas (most refer to it as  ‘The Artistic Brain’):

  • All Emotions
  • Imagination
  • Play
  • Laughter
  • Creativity
  • Self-soothing
  • Body regulation
  • Confidence
  • Problem-solving

Obviously, each hemisphere has many more functions than listed above, but you can clearly see how each is responsible for some essential areas.

You often hear people saying “I’m so left-brained” like it is something to be proud of. I, however, think that is something to be concerned by…

Most of us are more left-brained dominant for two reasons:  the first reason being, we are a society that likes order, reason, and logic. This is actually celebrated in our fast-paced, always busy worlds. Our right brain is thought of as being unpredictable, overly emotional, less orderly and seemingly irrational.

Think about toddler temper tantrums. When we send our kids into  “Time-Outs”, we accidentally teach our kids that we can’t handle, or we don’t like their BIG emotional outbursts ie:) “ When you can come out and act reasonably,  then we can talk”. We are all slightly uncomfortable with big emotions – therefore we end up being uncomfortable with kid’s right brains. This is not good, from a brain integration perspective.

The second reason we are mostly left-brained is that the left brain is  ‘online’ for a greater part of the day. The right-brain only comes ‘online’ when one of its’ many functions are needed. This is how it works:  the left-brain seeks info from the environment… it then fires a message over to the right-brain to wake it up (through little neuro-synaptic pathways that are created)… informing the right brain it needs to:  a) feel something b) figure out a way to settle itself c) solve a problem. It then tells the left brain what to do….the left-brain does it…BOOM. A beautiful, calm, integrated, well-communicative brain. An example of the left brain and the right brain working together!

However, if the left brain doesn’t have the healthy pathways leading into the right brain, it gets agitated. We are not meant to be only ‘left-brained’.  The unfortunate result: the brain will loop on its own thoughts, ruminate and think about something over and over again. This is where obsessiveness, anxiety, self-harm, and disordered eating patterns come to form. The left-brain does not want to be agitated or left to work on its own. All of the self-soothing is housed in its neighbor to the right.  We need good neural connection into the right brain – so we can access its amazing functions! This access, neurologically, calms a person and their entire system.

On the flip side, the right-brain working on its own, and not accessing the reason and logic housed in the left brain, can evoke a sense of chaos, the feeling of being out-of-control and flooding of emotion. It needs the neural connections into the rational left-brain, in order to settle and calm it.

To attach a personal, more hands-on understanding: when I am feeling overwhelmed emotionally, there is a large part of me that would like to organize, clean, or do a quick budget on Excel. My left-brain wants to take over and take care of me, by doing these aforementioned tasks. This would ease my stress for the moment, but this is not going to create healthy, self-soothing patterns in my brain. Alternatively, I should do activities that access my right -brain:  knitting, art, thinking about what emotions I may be having (and feeling them!), playing music, moving my body, doing something bi-lateral (like walking), all of which will get my hemispheres communicating with each other. Integrating my brain. Neurologically creating calm and decreasing anxiety.

Playing with pizza dough would have gotten my hemispheres to communicate.

I often describe a healthy, balanced individual as one that can easily access both hemispheres.  We all just have to remember each hemisphere is important for their own reasons.

This is why I believe Famosa restaurant has certainly got it right. When I saw this happening,  I called the manager over to describe my brain observations, and share my brain integration insights. He smiled, nodded, then slowly backed away.

Pleased with myself, I grinned knowing I helped this restaurant realize they are growing healthy child brains. One badly shaped mini pizza at a time.

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