You’ve heard about neuroplasticity. You’re good with the fact that nerve cells wire together if they fire together. But you want to learn how to make it work for you. Let’s do it…
Play: Be childlike, silly, goofy, spontaneous. Have fun – mess around. The brain loves it.
The human brain contains some 86 billion neurons, all of them forming connections – with synapses – to each other.
If you do the math, that’s about 150,000,000,000,000 (150 trillion) of them. And the fact that those trillions of connections are plastic delivers healing and hope.
In part one we defined neuroplasticity, reviewed its benefits, and detailed how it goes down. And now it’s time to learn how to make it work for us.
The primary info source for this piece is a gold mine article I found on PositivePsychology. “What Is Neuroplasticity? A Psychologist Explains [+14 Tools],” was written by Courtney E. Ackerman, MA. I also grabbed a few tidbits from Psychology Today’s “Neuroplasticity.”
Off we go…
15 ways to rewire your brain
In putting neuroplasticity to work for us, we’re actually rewiring our brain. It’s really no different than an electrician rewiring our home during a remodel or repair.
Now, if we’re going to talk about rewiring the brain, it’s important to emphasize neuroplasticity’s bottom-line…
Neurons that consistently interact form long-lasting functional relationships, just as neurons that no longer play together lose their connections.
Neuropsychologist Dr. Donald O. Hebb summed it up in 1949: cells that wire together fire together.
And a comprehensive one it is – well worth absorbing…
- Aerobic exercise: Helps the brain as much as the heart. It stimulates the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), often referred to as “Miracle-Gro for the brain.” Studies show that walking an hour a day, five days a week, increases the size of the hippocampus – huge in learning and memory.
- Intermittent fasting: Increases adaptation in neural connections, promotes neuron growth, improves overall cognitive function, and decreases the risk of neurodegenerative disease.
- Traveling: Being in enriched and stimulating environments, with positive social interactions, exposes the brain to new stimuli. And that opens new neural pathways and stimulates activity in the brain.
- Using mnemonic devices: Memory training can enhance connectivity in the frontoparietal network (attention, problem-solving, working memory) and can prevent some age-related memory loss.
- Learning a musical instrument: May increase connectivity between brain regions and help form new neurons.
- Non-dominant hand exercises: Can form new neural pathways and strengthen connectivity between neurons.
- Reading fiction: Increases and enhances connectivity in the brain.
- Expanding vocabulary: Activates visual and auditory processes as well as memory processing.
- Creating artwork: Enhances the connectivity of the brain at rest – the default mode network – which can boost introspection, memory, empathy, attention, and focus.
- Dancing: Reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and increases neural connectivity.
- Play: Be childlike, silly, goofy, spontaneous. Have fun – mess around. The brain loves it.
- Sleeping: Encourages learning retention through the growth of dendritic spines. During a synapse, they help transmit electrical signals to the body of the receiving neuron.
- Mindfulness meditation: As feelings and thoughts work toward a more pleasant outlook, the brain is also transforming – making this way of thought more of a default. Other mental trainings can accomplish the same.
- Practicing and repeating positive activities, even mentally rehearsing them: Practice and repetition don’t necessarily have to make perfect. But they can sure solidify good habits.
- Developing a sense of purpose in life: How can the brain maintain balance if it feels directionless?
I’m telling you, each and every one of them is solid. And you know what? There are plenty more to be discovered with a click or two.
The items on the list are general rewiring techniques. But in her article, Ms. Ackerman includes interventions for these specific situations: brain trauma, anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and chronic pain.
It’s really interesting and helpful info. And all the more reason to read her piece.
Making us who we want to be
The wonder of neuroplasticity: neurons wiring together because they fire together. It’s what made us who we are in the first place.
And it can help us become who we want to be.
So much more to learn…
And last, but certainly not least, those Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration titles.
Bill White does not intend to replace the care of a licensed medical or mental health professional. The material is provided for informational purposes only. Always talk with your medical and/or mental health provider before making decisions.