Neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to form new connections and change its structure in response to experience – is a remarkable feat that deserves more attention in our personal quests to improve our lives.
While researching this concept, I came across a very compelling article, Rethinking the Potential of the Brain in Major Psychiatric Disorders, by Steven Morgan at www.vermontrecovery.com.
Steven Morgan writes the following:
… in order for the brain to form new connections and change, it must be stimulated through activity. Whether this activity is external – such as playing a piano, or internal – such as imagining your fingers playing a piano sequence, an important factor in driving lasting brain changes is that you pay close attention to what you are doing … if thoughts and imagination physicaly change your brain, you can therefore use you mind – especially through focused attention – to positively rewire it.
Steven emphasizes that the brain is open to new experience across our lifetime. In fact, research indicates that those who engage in life-long learning often have the best brain health, in terms of memory and cognition.
The only thing holding any of us back from re-wiring our brains for better outcomes are limiting beliefs, based on past experiences or mass cultural hypnosis! Here are some examples:
I’m too old to start (singing, dancing, piano) lessons.
I need a drink at the end of the day.
I’ve never liked exercise.
I’m too scared to travel alone.
I don’t make friends easily.
The remedy: discover the limiting beliefs holding you back, become aware of them, and develop intense curiosity about whether they are really true. The curiosity must be intense enough to compel you to test the limiting belief to see if it is really true, rather than continue to believe it without question.
And how do you test it? You involve yourself in a new experience, subjecting your brain to rich sensory information – sights, sounds, touch, smell, taste – with an observational non-judgmental attitude.
A mere walk in the park could be a new experience for someone with an acquired distaste for exercise – and what a rich experience that could be! The warmth of the sun on your back, a light breeze, the laughter of a child flying a little red kite, the smell of freshly cut grass, the sweet taste of the grains in the bread of your sandwich as you sit on a park bench, observing the world.
Homework for today: develop intense curiosity about a limiting belief you have and give it a gentle test – you may be pleasantly amazed by the results.
P.S. Here is another amazing link to a story of neuroplasticity – very inspiring!