I was recently reading an article in the Wall Street Journal on “neurobics”, the act of exercising your brain to build new pathways (wsj.com, health journal, June 3rd). It reminded me of my days in graduate school when Dr. Jerry Sheridan would lecture on neuroplasticity in the brain, a topic I found fascinating. In the past, researchers thought certain parts of the brain were immutable after development, i.e. you get what you get and have to live with it for the rest of your life.
Decades of research and new scanning and imaging technology have shown that changes can occur in those brain areas that researchers thought were fixed. According to the theory of neuroplasticity, thinking, learning and acting can change the brain’s functioning and physical anatomy. This is great news. We can change our brains. With practice, we can rewire thought patterns.
Let’s say you are a worrier. Your worry pathway is well worn and it is easy for you to take that path – after all, you have practiced worrying for many years. Now we know that you can train a different pathway or rewire a new way of thinking. For instance, you can practice thinking that you are happy and at peace. The key to accessing that part of the brain is to use the repetition of simple language over and over. For instance, if you are training peach of mind, you would say something like “I am happy, I am peaceful”. If you practice it enough, you will wear a pathway of happiness and peace and the worry path, like a path in the woods, grows over and becomes less prominent.
How powerful! You can teach your brain to be happy, to be positive and to be hopeful.
To learn more, I recommend enrolling in the Using the Mind or Resilience program at Turning Point.