Can you imagine yourself into a different being?
Did you know you can stimulate unused circuits of your brain and make them fit for other purposes? This fascinating concept is called neuroplasticity, introduced by researchers in the last fifty years when it was discovered the brain remains structurally and physiologically changeable throughout life, despite centuries of belief that possibilities for change ended in our twenties. Remarkably, the brain is able to reorganise itself and grow new connections between neurons – like a supercomputer that continuously receives both hardware and software updates.
In The Brain that Changes Itself – Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontier of Brain Science, psychiatrist and researcher, Norman Doidge MD, reveals our thoughts can literally switch our genes on and off, altering brain anatomy, and that by doing certain exercises we can physically increase our brain’s strength, size and density, improving cognition, perception, and muscle strength. Doidge’s inspiring book probes the mysteries of the body, love, sex, culture and education, and profoundly alters the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential.
“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu
Many would consider cerebral palsy an unchangeable disability, albeit not for Andy Short. An Australian who lives with cerebral palsy, together with his trainer, Lee Campbell, Andy has applied the concept of neuroplasticity to create changes in the physical structure of his brain that have enabled him to fine tune motor skills and physical capabilities and achieve astonishing physical challenges, which only a few years ago seemed impossible. Check out Andy’s Kokoda Trail experience.
Consider that simply by changing your route to work, or using your non-dominant hand to do tasks, can increase your brain power. Fortunately, age and IQ are no barrier. Countless “miracles” reinforce the premise that the mind is designed to improve as we get older, and that even people of average intelligence can improve their cognition and perception, develop muscle strength, or learn to play a musical instrument, simply by imagining so.
Compassion-based forms of meditation, such as yoga that help focus our attention on the present, are especially powerful in restructuring the brain. During yoga, the brain releases chemicals including, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins, which help us relax and lower stress and anxiety levels. Dancing, creating artwork, mindfulness, and intermittent fasting – all brain-training practices that enhance neuroplasticity – help to improve the lives of children with learning disabilities, reduce risks of Alzheimer’s, treat eating disorders, prevent cancer, and assist people to discover the “true essence of joy and peace”. These practices strengthen the limbic system – the emotional centre of the brain – and disrupt default thought patterns and “wake us up” out of our subconscious-driven Autopilot. From this foundation of awareness, we start to witness the conditioned patterns in our thoughts, beliefs and relationships, new neural pathways are forged, and we are able to break free of our default patterns – to evolve – and live in a more actively conscious state.
Until next time...