Clear Your Head

December 21, 2016

 So, you know that feeling when your thoughts feel like they are literally weighing down your brain? Like, there’s so much going on in your head, or you have so much that you need to do in a small amount of time that you can physically feel it in your head? We all get that feeling sometimes.

To help clear your head of this feeling, try Mind Mapping. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many things out there now that are a little too out there for me. I refer to these things as “hippie nonsense” (taken from my beloved show 30 Rock in reference to a family tradition of letting children name themselves). However, I was surprised to learn the science behind Mind Mapping and how it works.


Ok, what is Mind Mapping?

Mind Mapping comes from a result of the Nobel Prize winning scientific researcher Roger Sperry, who came up with the concept of “right brain” and “left brain.” This theory is that people tend to lean more to one side than the other. Left brain people tend to be more organized and efficient, right brain people tend to be more creative. This doesn’t mean each side has a monopoly on these talents. It just means that your personality lends itself to one more than the other.

Anyway, Mind Mapping is a marriage of these two parts of our brain. It is a free form exercise that increases productivity. In one study, executives who mind mapped were said they were more productive at work after doing so. Research also suggests that it can improve your memory by 10-15%, especially when learning (hint: any students out there? You reading?)


The reason for this is our brains get too used to the repetition of structure. For example, if you take notes and you are writing a heading, with bullet points underneath of important information, with possibly some sub-bullets underneath that. Your brain gets bored looking at this same pattern over and over again.


So, how do you Mind Map?

Mind Mapping is writing down small bits and pieces about a subject that is floating around in your mind. You start in the center. That’s your topic. Then, you radiate out from there with different keywords of things related to the subject, connecting it as you go. It’s a little like brain storming, but not at the same time.


The term “mind mapping” was popularized by a British author and television personality Tony Buzan. While the basic materials for Mind Mapping have been around much longer (think 3rd Century), Buzan built and popularized the Mind Mapping brand. Some of his general rules for this are as follows:


1. Start in the center with an image of the topic you are thinking about and use three colors (minimum) to draw it out.  That’s where that creative part of your brain comes into play. You don’t have to be an artist. Just a doodle will do.


Side note: does anyone remember Willow (Alyson Hannigan) from having to say the line “A doodle. I do doodle. You too. You do doodle, too?” I can’t say or write the word doodle without hearing that quote in my head.


2. Use images, symbols, codes and dimensions throughout your map. Don’t be boring and list things. That’s why your brain gets bored.


3. Use keywords instead of full phrases.


4. Use lines to connect keywords and don’t be lazy about it. Use colors to connect things. Use bold lines instead of just one mark. Make them wavy. Braid three colors together.


5. Emphasize important keywords by coloring them bold, highlighting them, or writing it out in bubble letters


There is no wrong way to do this. If you do it multiple times, you will develop your own style of mind mapping that works for you. Plus, keep in mind, no one is ever going to see it unless you show it to them. Don’t be self-conscious. There are also some computerized mind mapping tools, if you want to explore that option. Just Google it. Good luck clearing your head!


H. (2016). How I Use Mind Mapping to Help Declutter My Brain. Retrieved December 21, 2016, from


Mind map. (n.d.). Retrieved December 21, 2016, from


Pinola, M. (2013). How to Use Mind Maps to Unleash Your Brain's Creativity and Potential. Retrieved December 21, 2016, from


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