When you think sharp mind, calm and in control, you probably don't think 'Connor McGregor'. However his hidden talent, highlighted as part of a Heineken marketing campaign, has been scientifically proven to be the secret behind level headed fighters, cool calm collected gentlemen and those in total control of their circumstances. And while McGregor may not traditionally fit into these categories, one only has to look at his wealth, fighting success, and the brand he's built around his name to suggest that there may be some level of 'control' behind his actions.
So what's the secret behind chronic calm under pressure? While exercise, sleep, meditation and nutrition all hold their benefits, one ancient Japanese practice that Mr. McGregor relies on that will reportedly sharpen your mind and put control back in your hands; origami.
Research at Rostov State University in Russia linked the ancient Japanese practice of paper-folding to a sharpening of test subjects’ motor, intellectual and creative abilities. The study’s authors put this down to an increase in interaction between test subjects’ brain hemispheres, which separate research suggests can improve the quality of ideas we have. Good news if you thought all paperwork was, by definition, mind-numbing.
Origami also helps to regulate your mood. According to neuroscientist Kelly Lambert of the University of Richmond, Virginia, everyday dextrous activity can limit the release of stress hormones in your brain. Working with your hands for a tangible reward – in origami’s case, your perfectly folded paper crane, say – can re-establish your sense of control over your environment. Well... imagine how outrageous Connor's actions would be without origami in his life! Or maybe he put the paper down earlier this year when he attacked a bus. Who knows?
Origami triggers what Lambert calls a “behaviourceutical” effect: a positive change in your neurochemistry that is potentially as significant as the effects of medication.
Most of us haven’t done any origami since primary school, and we’ve let ourselves wander into an adult life of offices and abstract goals. But for a clearer, healthier mind, perhaps it’s time we returned to the fold. After all, it works for McGregor.