Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) is nothing new. Yogis have been doing it through the meditative practice of Yoga Nidra for thousands of years. Qigong incorporates it into almost all their routines. Bilateral Stimulation refers to any activity that channels your attention from one brain hemisphere to the other. In EMDR this is typically done by tapping on alternate knees or watching someone’s fingers move rapidly from right to left. But you don’t need to do EMDR, Yoga Nidra, Qigong, or anything else that requires learning a new technique to alternately stimulate both sides of your brain. Every time you walk you do exactly that. Ditto for stair climbing. As typical of those behaviors may already be for you, it can only help to incorporate more BLS into your day as it clears the mind, induces calm, and enables easier decision making. No matter which techniques you choose, the benefits are nothing short of extraordinary in recalibrating your brain.
No doubt, you have noticed how simply taking a walk shifts your thinking and gives you a new perspective. It’s the balancing effect of bilateral hemisphere stimulation. Once you have some measure of hemi-sync, as it’s called, you can more easily tackle thorny problems.
In our thinking oriented world, it can be quite grounding to work intelligently with the body; especially, when that directly affects mental and emotional processing.
A VARIETY OF WAYS TO DO BILATERAL STIMULATION:
Take the stairs.
Yoga (Actually, the meditative practice of Yoga Nidra uses this in many ways that don’t require learning any postures.)
Tapping (See tapping post on this site.)
EMDR, usually done with an EMDR practitioner.
Acupuncture can have elements of bilateral stimulation depending on how it’s done.
Alternate nostril breathing.
Binaural beats, an auditory way of alternately engaging both hemispheres.
Cognitive techniques, when going back and forth from tasks that require the left hemisphere, like logic, to tasks that engage the right hemisphere through creative or artistic endeavors.
WHEN TO USE BILATERAL STIMULATION:
Extreme situations are often a great time to try BLS. When a traumatic memory is triggered, whether it’s the thought, emotion, or both simultaneously. This might be a sudden feeling of panic when flooded with an old disturbing memory or a deep upwelling of grief when watching a movie of a child dealing with a situation you experienced. Whatever the trigger, extreme emotional states are well suited to the calming effects of BLS. For instance:
When feeling stressed overwhelmed.
When you can’t make a decision.
When an unpleasant emotion, like anger, anxiety, guilt, etc. shows up and you have no idea why.
If you find yourself ruminating on negative what-ifs, something upsetting from your past, or a fear of something in the future.
When lonely or bored. (Also, see pieces here on Loneliness and Boredom.)
If you feel emotionally detached, untethered from reality, “floaty,” or simply want to feel more grounded. ( See the piece here on Grounding Techniques.)
This is another tool in your mind-body toolbox. As with all the others on this site, the more you practice it, the more powerfully it can help you recalibrate your emotions and calm your nervous system.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang