Paulina Howfield on building bridges for your brain


Bridging the left and right brain hemispheres is a sure way to help us make positive changes in our lives, writes art therapist and author Paulina Howfield.

There are so many ways that developing a ‘bridge’ to link the left and right brain is valuable.  When we combine both the left and right sides of our brains to think about, see and experience the world, we develop a new understanding about the world we live in, the people with whom we interact and the things that ‘happe’  to us.

I believe that just a few benefits of developing a bridge can include our ability to:

  1. Communicate more effectively;
  2. Reduce stress and anxiety;
  3. Develop our creative problem solving skills; and
  4. To live richer more meaningful lives

It is also excellent for helping us to develop discernment and to allow us to embrace the Divine Feminine, which is a focus for many at this time of global change and awakening.


Most people favour one brain hemisphere for thinking and reasoning

While humans are designed to have two functioning hemispheres working in harmony as they filter, sending and receiving electrical and neuron impulses via the corpus callosum, most people use one side of their brain more than the other to communicate, think and make sense of the world.

What happens if you are a left brain thinker

If you are left brain dominant you spend lots of time thinking, being logical and examining details to make sense of the world. While this is the favoured way of thinking in the western culture because of its ability to create logical, sequential thinking patterns that support scientific reasoning and intellectual progress, predominantly left brain thinking  can also cultivate anxiety, depression and high stress levels. The constant need to compare and contrast, and judge whether or not something or someone fits into the pattern, (ie is the same as everything else) affects the way left brain thinkers socialise, because left brain thinkers compare and contrast everything to see if it fits or belongs. This means that anyone or anything that is different may be considered weird, strange and too unfamiliar – because it doesn’t belong to the categorising that the left brain does to make sense of things.

Left brain thinkers experience stress and anxiety

The way the left brain works also helps create stress and anxiety because it makes left brain thinkers want to belong and to be ‘normal’ – whatever they determine that to be. They may not believe they belong if they feel, look, or sound different to their perceived ‘norm’. An add-on effect of this is that left brain thinkers often feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied about their bodies, their behaviour and/or with their own skills. They want to be themselves, but their belief they are different to the ‘norm’ can make it impossible for them to like or embrace their individuality and unique qualities.

All of this creates anxiety and affects left brain thinkers self esteem because their comparing and contrasting can often mean they develop an unconscious sense of never being good enough – therefore they never feel good about what they do or the choices  they make, and they always see someone or something else as better or worse than them. This can then create ‘perfectionism’ where no one and nothing – including themselves – meets their incredibly high standards.

Left brain thinking and making sense of the world also develops a sense of competition and on the plus side it is what makes individuals strive for success. But when it is taken to extremes this in turn can affect behaviour, the ability and need to belong and the capacity to sensate and explore feelings.

What happens if you are a right brain thinker?

Right brain thinkers who are not bridging the left and right brain predominantly focus on non-verbal cues, bodies, sensations, feelings, colours, sounds, images, intuition and gut instincts to understand and make sense of the world. They do not focus on what is different and what doesn’t belong, they are instead holistic thinkers and experience everything as unique, but part of a whole, and they can innately celebrate the uniqueness that brings everyone and everything together.

Right brain thinkers don’t expect everything and everyone to be the same and they don’t want it to be. They can be bored if everything seems the same, and at worse feel threatened by it and become unwell or feel unsafe. This may manifest most obviously when they try to fit into a left brain world, or connect with a predominately left-brained group, or undertake specific activities that focus on the development of the left brain.

Right brain thinkers can also experience stress and anxiety

Right brain thinkers may be perceived as ‘weird’ or ‘stupid’  by those who are left brain thinkers and this will in turn have effects on the mental health of the right brain thinker. They can also struggle to belong and fit in, and may feel their skills are not valued or needed. Then, in the same manner as the left brain thinkers, but for different reasons, their self esteem suffers, and they feel they cannot meet the needs and expectations of the society they live in.  They may find it hard to get a job, ‘fit in’ or ‘belong’ and can often feel that they cannot contribute who they truly are.

As a result, just like the left brain thinkers they may not do what they really want, or ‘be’ who they really are, because being who they want to be doesn’t fit into the ‘norm’ of the left brain world. So while the left brain thinkers ‘believe/think’ that they are ostracized and are outsiders, the right brain thinkers ‘feel’ they are ostracised and outsiders.


Bridging the brain hemisphere links feeling with thinking

What I have mentioned above are just some of the things that can happen when we don’t bridge the left and right brain hemispheres. We all need to be able to marry our thinking capacity with our feeling capacity. If we don’t, then we interact with the world without balance and integration and as a consequence lack the skills needed to manage our thinking or our feelings (depending on our brain oreientation). As a result we may experience low self-esteem, a lack of belonging and a sense of disconnection.

Our bodies were born with the ability to use both sides of our brain to interact with the world, we just need to value both sides of our brain and the different ways we perceive the world, and link them up.


How can we bridge our brain hemispheres?

Bridging the left and right brain can be done in numerous ways:

  1. One way is by using our imagination (for the left-brain) and/or symbolic metaphor (for the right-brain) where we visualise and imagine a strong link between the two brains that can transmit, hold and receive information and allow them to work together and in harmony.
  2. Another way is by creating a physical bridge, that is also ‘symbolic’ – as I do with art therapy clients and art students. I help them use clay, wood or some other kind of material to design and build a bridge that they can feel and sense as a bridge, so it will get all their senses and experiences involved.
  3. Or maybe you want to use visualisation techniques to re-create in your mind a bridge that you already know and have visited that you can use as your link point.

In truth there is no limitation to what you can do and how you can imagine or create a link that encourages the two sides of your brain to communicate and work together. So create it in a way that suits you. Then, once you have created the bridge or link, practise getting information to move back and forth every day. Notice how information and thinking patterns move from the left side of the brain to the right, or the right side of the brain to the left.

With practice using both sides of your brain to interact with and think about the world will become second nature, and you will find life has more meaning, more joy and less isolation.

A new way of being will open your eyes, your heart and your mind to ways of thinking and creating that you have perhaps never considered before.


Paulina Howfield is an art therapist, counsellor, shamanic healer, author and public speaker. To learn more about her work, her speaking engagements and products visit her website at





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