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  • Noel Cho, MA, LMFT, LPC

5 Full-Brain Exercises

Updated: Mar 7

Noel Cho, MA, LMFT, LPC


As we begin our journey in pursuing “full-brained Christianity,” here are 5 exercises to build full-brain engagement.


1. Pause to Notice

We often move through life quickly, trying to be efficient in checking things off of the to-do-list and getting to the next task.


Take a moment to slow down and focus on your brain and body.

What are you noticing in your body right now as you say that thought?


Perhaps you are holding emotions that you are not aware of.

Perhaps you are frustrated that you even need to take a moment to slow down.

Perhaps you need a moment to remember why what you are doing is so important at this moment in time.


Pausing to ask the question is an intentional shift from focusing only on our left-brain to engaging our right-brain.


2. Body Scan

The goal of this exercise is to bring awareness to what we are feeling in our body. In Western culture, we often minimize or ignore cues that our body is trying to send us, but God designed our system to work together–mind, body, and spirit. This brain exercise helps us move from focusing on our thoughts to building connection between our mind and body.


If possible, begin by lying on your back with your palms facing up and feet slightly falling apart. If you are not in a place where you can comfortably lie down, you can also do this exercise sitting on a chair with feet resting on the floor.


Relax your body and be as still as you comfortably can. Start by bringing awareness to the breath, noticing the rhythm, the experience of breathing in and breathing out. Do not try to control your breathing, just hold gentle awareness on the breath.


Next, focus your awareness on your physical body. Notice the texture of clothing against your skin, the surface on which your body is resting, the temperature of your body and the environment.

Gently scan your body from bottom to top. As you notice each region of your body, notice if there is any tingling, soreness, tension, or feeling particularly heavy or light. Pay attention to areas where you do not feel any sensations or if they are hypersensitive.


Move through the body as follows:

  • Toes to the rest of the feet (top, bottom, ankle)

  • Lower legs, knees, thighs

  • Pelvic region, bottom, tailbone

  • Abdomen, chest

  • Lower back, upper back, shoulder blades

  • Hands: fingers, palms, backs, wrists

  • Arms: lower, elbows, upper

  • Neck

  • Head: jaw, mouth, nose, cheeks, ears, eyes, forehead, top


3. Tracking Experiences:
Sensations - Images - Feelings - Thoughts - Movement

SIFTM is a helpful acronym to help us process specific experiences, especially experiences that elicit a reaction that feels confusing or out of the norm.


SIFTing the mind involves taking time to sit with the experience and try to identify any sensations, images, feelings, thoughts, or movements we are experiencing. In those intense instances when we are triggered, we can pause to ask ourselves one by one:

  • Sensations: What are the physical sensations I am noticing in my body, where am I noticing those sensations?

  • Images: What images or memories are coming up in my mind?

  • Feelings: What feelings or emotions do I notice?

  • Thoughts: Are there any specific thoughts arising about myself, another person, or the world? What beliefs are being created or reinforced in my mind?

  • Movement: Do I notice any movement in my body? Am I pacing or shaking or maybe even frozen?


This straightforward exercise can offer a surprising amount of insight into any underlying stressors. For example, there may be an image from our childhood, a phrase, a sensation, or a feeling that arises that helps us connect our current day reactions to difficult experiences from our past. This process helps us understand ourselves and develop insight.


4. Feelings about Thoughts and Thoughts about Feelings

As we learned in The Other Half of Church, our left-brain and right-brain perform different functions. Left-brain functions include conscious thought/awareness, speech/verbal processing, problem-solving, and logic. Right-brain functions include preconscious awareness, emotional attunement and regulation, relationship and attachment, assessment of surroundings (good, bad, safe, unsafe), and identity.


Because the two hemispheres focus on different functions that are occurring at different speeds, we need to be intentional about strengthening the communication between the two hemispheres in order to promote “full-brain” functioning.


Encourage the two hemispheres to communicate with each other:

Ask the left-brain: What do you think about what you are feeling?

Ask the right-brain: How do you feel about having that thought?


This will help both hemispheres grow in awareness and engagement with each other.


5. Build Emotional Vocabulary: Name it to tame it

In those moments when we feel overwhelmed with emotion, simply naming what we are feeling can be helpful. Dr. Daniel Siegel recommends the exercise “name it to tame it” as a means to make sense of our feelings and find balance. The process is exactly what it sounds like: when emotions arise, try to describe your internal state without having to explain or rationalize whatever you are feeling.


This process promotes integration by strengthening our brain’s language capabilities and connecting them to the spontaneous and raw emotions in other parts of the brain. By bringing our preconscious thoughts into our conscious awareness, we shift from having our preconscious thoughts being in charge to us being in charge of how we respond to the thoughts we are are having. We are connecting the right-brain to the left-brain, which helps things start to make more sense. This neurological process helps us calm down, feel more balanced, and feel more in control of our responses.


“Language shows us that naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power,

it gives us the power of understanding and meaning.” - Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart


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