Make a Move, Your Brain Loves It

Shift from limited thinking to creativity in one move.

Posted May 01, 2014

Movement is a language the brain understands and enjoys.

The moment we bring attention to our movements, any movement, the brain resumes growing new connections and creating new pathways. Conversely, movement without awareness does not provide the brain with any new informationit just mimics old patterns.

Donald Olding Hebb, a Canadian psychologist known as the father of neuropsychology and neural networks, explains this process well. He combined years of work in brain surgery with his study of human behavior and came up with what is known as Hebbian theory or Hebb’s law.  In his classic 1949 work The Organization of Behavior, he shares Hebb’s law. "When an axon of cell A is near enough to excite cell B and repeatedly or persistently takes part in firing it, some growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells such that A's efficiency, as one of the cells firing B, is increased."

This is often paraphrased as "Neurons that fire together wire together." which was popularized and eloquently described in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know? by Dr. Joe Dispenza. Neuroscientist, chiropractor, lecturer and author Dr. Dispenza sat back on his comfortable chair and confidently said in the movie, “We know physiologically that nerve cells that fire together wire together. If you practice something over and over, those nerve cells have a long-term relationship. If you move the same way on a daily basis, you're embedding that neural net.  And that neural net now has a long-term relationship with all those other nerve cells called an ‘identity.’ We also know that nerve cells that don't fire together no longer wire together. They lose their long-term relationship because every time we interrupt the thought process that produces a chemical response in the body, those nerve cells that are connected to each other start breaking the long-term relationship.”

An American psychiatrist and researcher in the field of neuroplasticity Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz in his book The Mind and the Brain describes this process and us, this way. “As ‘neural electricians’ with a neuro-plastic brain, who can take charge of our brain function, we are not restricted to working with existing wiring. We can run whole new cables through our brain.”

Tinny Davis, 84 from Comex, British Columbia does this on a daily basis. Three times a day she perches by her window near Highland Secondary School and waves her hand enthusiastically to the students as they walk by.  She’s been doing this since 2007. She found that waving and smiling and patting her heart when they wave back boosts her energy and mood in the morning, lunch break and afternoon, every school day. In turn many students voiced that it was weird at first but by doing it daily, “ We began to count on her smile. She pumps everyone’s attitude up a bit.” Her waving and smiling, and us doing it back makes everyone’s mood a little brighter.” Tinny Davidson’s movements not only create new wire cables in her brain, but burst open some students neural nets and helped them build new ones too. 

This story confirms what social psychologist Amy Cuddy found in her research project at Harvard University where she is an Assistant Professor in the Business Department. In Her TEDTalk, delivered at TEDGlobal 2012 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Cuddy claimed “ Our body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions—and even our own body chemistry—simply by changing body positions. Our bodies change our minds, and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes.”

In 2010 Cuddy along with Assistant Professor Dana Carney of UC-Berkeley conducted a study called “Physical Motion” with 66 Columbia University students.

They found that expansive, open movements like waving your arms high the way Tinny does, boost hormone levels, increases testosterone, and decreases cortisol.

My personal experience and work with clients confirms for me that the best way to break an embedded neural net in the brain and to shift limited thinking and the energy behind that thinking is to breathe, move and express openly like Tinny Davidson does, as often as possible. That positive interaction between your mind and body with movement awareness can create the new kind of cable wires in your brain that Jeffrey Schwartz defined.

The best choice you can make when you feel at your wits end, down in the dumps, or ready to give up is to get out of your head as quickly as possible. Start observing your body, breathe, move, wave that hand, open up your arms and chest real wide like a happy baboon, shake that tail feather and those stale wires in your brain loose, and grow some new ones.

Make a Move

I invite you to make a move right now that feels expansive to you. It can be opening your arms wide, or lifting them high like when an athlete crosses the finish line or any gesture that opens you wide up…and smile. Sync that movement up with your breathing at the same time and notice how that changes your energy or thinking right now. How did that feel? Did it change your thinking, mood or energy level? Making that choice to pause and make a move even for a moment like we just did can make a big difference in how you feel, make decisions, or react to a situation. For more body assessment tests go to

About the Author

Steve Sisgold is a Body Centered Therapist, the author of What's Your Body Telling You?, and a life coach to authors, Grammy winners, business leaders and more.

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