What do Cycling, EMDR Therapy, and PTSD have in common?
Well, to start, this isn’t a trick question; the answer is pretty simple: It’s all about Brain Integration.
As you know, our brain has two hemispheres. With this knowledge, we also know that there are different roles played by each side and area of the brain and that integrating neural networks appears to help resolve traumatic memories.
The success of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in treating trauma and mental health challenges has taught us that alternating right-side and left-side brain stimulation, via visual, auditory, or tactile experience, helps facilitate emotional processing. Through the simple act of listening to music or drums shifting from your right to left ear, a memory that at one point was charged with emotion can become less distressing. During the process, a rhythmic association can arise, providing positive responses to negative memories of thoughts. With support, this process can facilitate lasting or ongoing healing.
So how does Cycling and PTSD Recovery factor into EMDR? When you cycle, you are rhythmically using your body (right-leg left-leg, up and down), alternating the stimulation or use of your right and left brain throughout the activity. Question; Have you ever gone on a bike ride or walk and felt that you were sorting through your thoughts, developing new insights, or becoming less distressed about something? We know that exercise and exercise through cycling have many benefits. With the combination of EMDR, we can highlight the mental and emotional benefits.
Right-left brain stimulation may sound like a science fiction-like process, but I assure you there is no electricity involved in this type of therapy. Your body receives input in the form of movement, sound, touch, or sight, without any added energy.
There are millions of ways to alternate right-side and left-side brain activation, including yoga, walking, dancing, drumming to music or running. People have naturally gravitated toward right-left movements in many healing rituals across the world. Think of how many sacred rituals involve drums, movement, or voyages on foot. Understanding brain integration, plasticity, and resilience gives us some insight into why these rituals have been successful and why they continue to be passed down through generations.
Along with helping us process emotions, EMDR and Cycling together can help rebuild positive memories to negative experience, thoughts, and feelings. Through therapy, this is called resourcing – real resources to cultivate feelings of peace, nurturing protection, and wisdom. In addition to and as part of processing negative experiences, it is crucial to develop the positive, sometimes the opposite of what occurred in the background of trauma.
One last thought – think about your life for a moment and ask yourself; When am I engaging in an activity that involves my right and left brain in alternating rhythm? How do I feel before, during, and after the fact? How can I incorporate this information into my healing path?
If you are looking to heal from specific traumatic memories, I highly recommend doing what I have found to work best. Find and work with a skilled professional, and get out on your bike or start cycling. Consider how your own choices outside of therapy can support your process as well. Perhaps you’ll start by choosing to walk, run or Cycle to your therapist’s office, or do a little dance after your session or before bed. Whichever you choose, may it serve your healing and integration.
By Brian Nadon