When I was 21 years old I was totally obsessed with learning to juggle. One morning I woke up and thought I must learn to juggle! Neuroscience research on juggling had not yet been conducted so there was no reason for this sudden obsession.
Learning to juggle took a lot of time. I worked at it 2 hours a day for several weeks. Since I enjoy persevering through challenges, learning to juggle seemed to fulfill that need. After I learned to juggle, I made juggling even more challenging by juggling while I did aerobic exercise and juggling while sitting in a yoga position. Today, I do what I call juggling meditation.
Juggling had many benefits. I felt very relaxed when I juggled because it forced me into the present moment. I no longer thought about any of my problems. Because juggling requires a great deal of focus and concentration, it completely suspended my mind. People who race cars and skydive talk about similar experiences. However, juggling is a lot less dangerous!
15 years later I would discover that my boyfriend and future husband had the same strange obsession with juggling. He too taught himself to juggle in his early 20’s. Juggling helped both of us calm our mind and develop our brains in new and exciting ways. Somehow we both knew this even though neuroscience research had not been conducted.
Below are some interesting findings about juggling and the brain.
- After three months, juggling increased grey matter by 3%. Grey matter is the brain’s computing infrastructure.
- Grey matter density in the brain increased in the left hippocampus and nucleus accumbens. *The hippocampus regulates emotional responses and is involved in storing long-term memories. It is also known to be one of the very few brain regions to give birth to new neurons, generally in response to exercise or environmental stimulus. Whereas the nucleus accumbens links the limbic and motor systems, converting reward signals into motivation to act.
- Grey matter increased in all ages even in those over 60 who learned to juggle.
- Juggling increased white matter about 6% in a region called the right posterior intraparietal sulcus, which is involved in arm movement, grasping and tracking in peripheral vision, and is important for planning and executing complex movements.
- Juggling practice made participants better at mental rotation tasks, which provides direct evidence of a connection between a motor skill and spatial ability.
- Juggling created a structural change in the brain associated with visual processing.
One thing research does not discuss is how juggling is a powerful mindfulness meditation practice. Juggling can help suspend the mind and bring you back to the present moment. It is also a good physical exercise for the arms and shoulders.
If you want to try something new during the COVID-19 lockdown, why not give juggling a try? It is important to find interesting ways to destress and strengthen your brain. Check out this video of me doing, “Juggling Meditation,” during the lockdown.
If you are interested in learning to juggle, you will need juggle balls and access to a video tutorial. My personal favorite is Mister M 3 Juggling Balls, Plus Online Video, “The Ultimate Juggling Set.
Remember, stay active in any way possible. It’s the secret to good mental and physical health, especially during a pandemic!!