Updated: Jul 13, 2020
Our brains are truly fascinating; different pathways form and fall dormant, are created and then discarded, according to our experiences. When we learn something new, our brain actually changes physically. Thus, we have the ability to rewire our brain to become a better person, more successful and courageous. We can change our mindset and have happier, positive thinking.
Scientists used to think that as soon as you hit your early twenties, the brain just stops developing. Kind of like being stuck with an old computer. But recent studies have shown that our brain has a surprising level of flexibility. Another word for this is neuroplasticity.
What is Neuroplasticity?
It doesn’t mean that our brain is plastic, it means that our brain has the ability to mould and change itself. Even parts of the brain that were once thought to be impossible to change in adults are capable of being updated. Enabling mental and behavioral flexibility.
Research has firmly established that the brain is a dynamic organ and can change its architecture throughout life. Neuroplasticity occurs in the brain:
1. At the beginning of life: when the immature brain organizes itself.
2. In case of brain injury: to compensate for lost functions or maximize remaining functions.
3. Through adulthood: whenever something new is learned and memorized.
Our routines make routes in our brain. Isn’t it empowering to known that we can re-route our brains with mindfulness?
We can strengthen the pathways we want by thinking the way we want to be, make better habits and more helpful thought patterns. For example, every time you resist acting on your anger, you’re actually rewiring your brain to be calmer and more loving.
You can change any habit or form new ones. If you practice being happy for several days, the pathways associated with the feeling will strengthen and the behaviour will start occurring naturally.
Benefits of Neuroplasticity
Understanding brain plasticity can give you some sense of control over your life. It is how patients with grievous injuries learn to walk again. Brain training can even prevent dementia. It can help us gain control over our temperaments. It can also help in managing/treating chronic pain and stroke recovery.
Neuroplasticity is how we form habits. With enough effort, we can form healthier habits, strengthen learning processes and memory. Brain training can help us be happier and more optimistic. You really can overcome depression and anxiety disorders. It is not easy, but it is possible. You can be the architect of your own brain and therefore, your life.
Ways to Increase Brain Plasticity
· Yoga: Whatever we think, perceive and feel (intentionally or unconsciously) while practicing yoga helps wire our brain to think, perceive and feel in other situations.
· Breathing Exercises: A lot of us breathe incorrectly but we can train ourselves to breathe better. We must breathe into our belly (or diaphragm) slowly, instead of breathing shallowly into the chest. This can help calm our nervous system.
· Meditation: The more we meditate, the more our brain actually adapts to this state as our default state. This can help us be more mindful, calm and at peace throughout the entire day.
· Mindfulness: Similar to meditation, mindfulness exercises can rewire your brain to cope better with stressors.
· Gratitude: Regularly practicing gratitude can give you a sense of feeling “richer”. We don’t have to be the most privileged people in the world, but focusing on what’s positive in our lives can help us have a grateful mindset even in the most negative or mundane experiences.
· Visualization: The power of visualization can do wonders. What we think is what we attract in our life. When we do it properly, our brains cannot tell the difference between an imagined event and a real one. So we can create new positive pathways without even experiencing a positive event.
· Exercise: Exercising can actually stimulate the brain to grow and create/strengthen pathways. It is also shown to improve memory function in depressed people.
· Self-care: Practicing self-care is important for your mental health (it's something you should never feel guilty about). Consciously making time for self-care practices every day can rewire your brain to favour these activities. This is how positive habits are formed!
You may have to consciously do something many times for it to become unconscious, but it is okay! Your brain has to know that this is the path that is favourable to you so you need to be consistent.
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! You simply have to WANT to change. You have the power to establish complete control over your mind and live a deliberate, purposeful life.