Brain science is a powerful tool one can use to change their thoughts, feelings or behaviors – seriously!
For followers of my blog, you know my enthusiasm for one of the most profound discoveries I’ve learned which is how the brain wires, develops and maps. And it is this understanding that has helped me and those with whom I work or who read my blog actually re-wire their brains, creating new brain maps to heal their brains and change their thoughts, feelings and behaviors around substance use disorders, mental disorders, co-occurring disorders, and secondhand drinking-related stress impacts.
One of the authors who also embraces this science and whose work I admire greatly is Debbie Hampton, author of Sex, Serotonin, and Suicide, and founder of The Best Brain Possible. “After decades of depression, a serious suicide attempt and resulting brain injury, I not only survived, but went on to thrive by discovering the super power we all have to build a better brain and joyful life. If I can do it, you can too. Let me inspire and inform you to do the same. No brain injury required,” she says.
So I want to share Debbie’s perspective on this by highlighting a few concepts she shared in her February 14, 2016, post, “How Your Mind Shapes Your Brain,” appearing on her blog, The Best Brain Possible:
Every second of your life, every single thing of which you are aware – sounds, sights, thoughts, feelings – and even that of which you’re not aware – unconscious mental and physical processes – can be directly mapped to what’s happening in your brain. Over time, patterns emerge and actually shape your brain’s form and function. What you do, experience, think, hope, and imagine physically changes your brain through what’s called experience-dependent neuroplasticity.
Every minute of every day, you are literally shaping your brain.
How Neuroplasticity Physically Happens
What you pay attention to, think, feel, and want, and how you react and behave contribute to shaping your brain because of the specific ways your brain is activated over and over again in each activity. Neuroplasticity is physically accomplished as follows:
- Active brain regions get more blood flow, since they need more oxygen and glucose.
- The genes inside neurons get more or less active depending on the frequency with which the neuron fires.
- Neural connections that aren’t active weaken and wither. Use it or lose it.
- The synapses, connections between neurons, get more sensitive when routinely activated simultaneously, and new neurons are formed, producing thicker neural layers, in busy regions. Neurons that fire together, wire together.
The same principles that apply to physical exercise modifying your body work for neuroplasticity. A single yoga class or running three miles one time isn’t going to get noticeable results – except some brutal soreness. But months of practicing yoga or lacing up your running shoes will gradually have lasting effects on your body.
To read more of Debbie’s article and learn how to turn on neuroplasticity and make it work for you, click here.