We all have much more power to shape our reality than most realize due to the brain’s amazing morphing power, neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity, defined as the ability of the brain to change its own structure and function through thought and activity, is a scientific truth of the last decade as it used to be believed that the adult brain was hard wired. I like to say that it’s the super power we all have.
Your brain has the ability to change from the day you’re born until the day you die, and neuroplasticity is happening every minute of every day whether you know it or not. It’s our choice and privilege to use it consciously for us rather than unconsciously let it work against us. Neuroplasticity has been the key to my recovery from a serious brain injury resulting from a suicide attempt. You can put it to use for you too in your own life in a myriad of ways, and it will change your life for the better. Promise.
The brain is like play dough minus the funky smell. It is changeable, malleable and adaptable throughout life. The changes occur in response to actions we commit, our senses and perceptions, and even our thinking and imagining. Basically, what you do and think every day gets etched into your brain.
Neuroplasticity is a case of thought changing matter which, while remarkable, is no big deal for our brains. You can just think about your hand raising and it does which is both extraordinary and very ordinary. Your thoughts actually lead to real, physical changes in your brain.
Neuroplasticity has substantial implications for every aspect of human nature and culture including medicine, psychiatry, psychology, relationships, education, and more. Neuroplasticity has allowed people who have experienced strokes and brain trauma to recover amazing functionality. Because of this quality, congenitally blind people’s brains have figured out new methods to see. Children with cerebral palsy move more gracefully and children with autism make cognitive strides which were thought not possible because of neuroplasticity. It has also been harnessed to ease chronic pain. The examples go on and on.
Because nothing is “hard wired,” you can utilize neuroplasticity to change entrenched behaviors or patterns in your own life. You just have to actually make the effort to practice a new habit with consistency and, over time, your brain will respond by making permanent changes.
Want to quit smoking? Interrupt the pattern habitually, and your brain will become your ally in the effort. Your brain can be put to work for you if you want drop 10 pounds, stop drinking coffee all day, end a drug addiction or biting your fingernails. Visualizing can be of help when encouraging neuroplastic change to help stop a bad habit. You can put your thoughts to work on just about anything in your life. Alter your behavior, and, because of neuroplasticity, your brain will make physical changes to reinforce the new pattern.
I personally quit smoking when, after the brain injury, I couldn’t light up in the hospital for two weeks. I figured it was a good time to stop anyway, whether I wanted to or not. However, the biggest changes I’ve made are in my thought processes. After years of mental health counseling and taking an antidepressant, I still tried to commit suicide. Without pills or professional help in the years after the suicide attempt/brain injury, I have literally rewired my brain to think differently.
The bottom line is that we have grossly underestimated what the brain can do and the huge role it can play in shaping our lives and our reality. Put yours to work for you. You have a magic wand. Use it!
For further information on neuroplasticity and directing neuroplastic change: