Recently, while training a client, he surprised me by asking me if I wanted to box today instead of doing our normal workout. Considering that I have zero experience in boxing, I was a little anxious as I strapped on the gloves. As we fumbled through various stances, punching combinations, and elusive techniques, I found myself not only completely immersed in learning something new, but also slightly uncomfortable with my lack of mastery.
After our workout I noticed something totally unexpected. Sure I was a little sore in new places, but that was normal. What I didn’t expect when I sat down to work on a writing project, I experienced a newfound wave of amazing creativity and focus. Ideas seemed to rush into my head and I was able to capture these ideas and quickly complete my assignment. I started to wonder what contributed to this sudden improvement in brain performance.
At Tignum, we teach our clients how to use balance and complex movements to wake up the brain. These movements activate the neurological system, connect the left and right brain, and support enhanced brain function. Surely I could have been experiencing these benefits but I felt that this was even more. As I put on my researcher hat, I found that the answer lies more in the novelty of the challenges that boxing provided.
Trying something new forced my brain to concentrate. This created a meditative state where I was oblivious to distractions and achieved a state of flow. At the same time, because the movement patterns were all new, my brain had to create new pathways in order to find a new solution. This created more blood flow to the brain and elicited the release of the reward neurotransmitter dopamine. Add the benefits movement has on reducing the stress hormone cortisol, and I had created the perfect pre-cursor for optimal brain performance.
Interesting enough, this approach has been used by many amazing high performers throughout history. Einstein played the violin to boost his creativity. Winston Churchill painted landscapes. While neither of these share the physical demands of boxing, they share the concept of novelty, full immersion, and movement.
This week, when you really want to turn on your focus and creativity, try throwing in a little novelty. Try a movement that challenges you. Close your eyes and try to go from a deep squat to standing on a single leg, balancing with your eyes closed. Then laugh at yourself and enjoy the brain boost. As always, I’d love to hear what you think.
Tignum // Executive Performance Coach