This is your brain on joy

There was this story of folks who imagined themselves playing darts, and their dart game improved. Then there was a lot of flak about what a fake load of crap that was. But the truth is out. It works.

The  brain can’t tell the difference between the real and the imaginary.

There is AMPLE evidence to show that imagining something is almost as good as doing it.

Here are some of the results of one such study.

“Volunteers were asked to play a simple sequence of piano notes each day for five consecutive days. Their brains were scanned each day in the region connected to the finger muscles. Another set of volunteers were asked to imagine playing the notes instead, also having their brains scanned each day.

“The top two rows in the image show the changes in the brain in those who played the notes. The middle two rows show the changes in those who simply imagined playing the notes. Compare this with the bottom two rows showing the brain regions of the control group, who didn’t play nor imagine playing, piano.”  —David R. Hamilton PhD

http://drdavidhamilton.com/does-your-brain-distinguish-real-from-imaginary/

What does this mean for us?

It means we can visualize our choreography or a challenging transition as a means of practice. But it also means we can lie on the floor and visualize dancing when we are not able to dance physically. Listening to the music and letting our bodies respond, even when we do not move is remarkably powerful. Small impulses slip into our muscles, activating them, connecting them.

But it also means more than this. What we think is powerful. The stories we tell ourselves, the words we say to ourselves, they have bigger results than we may know. 

We say things to ourselves, and we mean them—even when they are, well, sorta mean. I know, people laugh at affirmations. “It’s just a lie,” is the most common complaint. But I would submit that the self-hating acid drip in which we daily bathe is at least as much of a lie, and far more toxic.

What if we told ourselves better stories?

What if we visualized our own success? In detail. And stuck to that.

One of the things I do is what I call Mapping. I pay attention to my body in certain emotional states. The joy of connection in dance. Feeling successful. Happiness. Things like that. I map my body’s posture and physical sensations while I experience these positive feelings. So I can recreate that state later on. So when I am going to perform, I place myself in a body map created from a generous expression  of joy.

And, Lo, I let that feeling infuse my body. I “Just Say No” to toxic whispers of doubt. This didn’t come easily. It took practice and perseverance to notice these feelings and learn to create them. But it was worth the effort.

I do a lot of little things. At night before I go to sleep, I relax my jaw. I make sure none of my teeth are touching. I relax my eyes, my mouth, my face. Habitually holding tension in various body areas doesn’t go away by itself. We have to take action. And we are in good company. 

Olympic athletes visualize their success.

They visualize their whole event—their technique, strategy, competitors, the whole thing. They see it in their heads, their most perfect performance—and it’s serious business. They mean it.

If it’s good enough for Olympic athletes, it’s good enough for us.

So…

Next time you have a moment of joy, I invite you to notice what you feel, physically, in your body. What sensations do you notice? What is the shape of that joy? How does your body hold itself when it is happy? What is on your face?  Map that. Go there.

Practice feeling joy.

Smiling brings joy. Smiling at ourselves in the mirror, a real smile, makes a difference. Let’s make that difference.

Improv brings joy too. Here’s a tiny little improv video. Let your brain think your body is doing it ; ) 
Maybe your body would like to do that itself.  Check out Effortless Improv and this upcoming webinar, How to Teach Improvisation

Ahhh!

Love,
Alia

PS Local VT/NH/MA folks, spots have opened up at at Raq-on.net. I will be teaching creative expression with a strong dose of improv!

Mondays 5:45 to 745 p.m: August 12th-September 23rd.
Intermediate/Advanced class with Alia
 (2 spots left)

This class is for the serious student who has achieved a level II status. You must be willing to take constructive criticism from your instructor work as a team player with your peers. This is a 2 hr. class and is $150 for the 7 week session. 
By permission only. Please email me if you are interested in this class.

And now for something completely different! Astor Piazzola, a playlist. Tangueros have told me you can’t really dance tango to this music as it’s so complex, so feel free to let your imagination soar (or your body move as it wishes 😉 and have super-dramatic blast!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhJWD8zzZoo&list=RDdhJWD8zzZoo&t=18

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