I try not to write using large scholarly words, I pride myself in writing posts that everybody can understand. As the sender, it’s my job to ensure that the receiver (you) has the best possible chance of understanding the message that I’m trying to convey.
However, when writing about the brain I have to use words like neuroplasticity, synapses, and neurons. But, I’ll do my best to keep the $100 words to a minimum.
So, what is neuroplasticity?
The simplest definition is that neuroplasticity is the brains ability to learn, adapt, and heal.
We have millions of neurons in our brains, these neurons are connected to each other through synapses. These synapses can be made stronger or weaker through experiences. Much like a muscle, your brain gets stronger the more you work it out.
As you train your brain you form more and more of these synapses that allow you to learn new things, adapt, and to heal.
Without neuroplasticity, you would never have been able to move past infancy. Children have brains that are more plastic than adults. As they learn to talk, walk, read, etc., they are constantly growing new neurons and strengthening the bond (synapses) between them. The brain will even prune unnecessary connections as it rewires and strengthens others. This is how we grow.
The brain is fully developed in your mid twenties, but that doesn’t mean your brain is stagnant. So, while your brain is no longer creating neurons (was just reading a study that spoke about how in some areas of the brain new neurons can be created throughout your life, but that’s for another post) it continues to strengthen the bond between them. This is what allows us to form new memories and to learn from our experiences.
Which brings me to the whole reason why I began writing this post to begin with. Neuroplasticity isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. You can’t focus on strengthening those synapses every once in a while. You must make it an intentional part of your daily life.
It is possible to change dysfunctional patterns of thinking and behaviors. You can develop new mindsets, memories, skills, and abilities.
Depression and other disorders (post traumatic stress is one) can disrupt neuroplasticity and quite literally causes people to lose the connection between neurons. This causes people to get stuck in ruts of negative feelings, thinking, behaviors and irrational fear.
This is why it’s important to have a daily routine of strengthen your neural connections. So that when bad things DO happen, you’re better prepared to adapt.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are a few ways to strengthen those neural connections.
- Pursue new challenges and experiences such as learning a new language or playing an instrument.
- Meet new people, especially people who aren’t like you. By experiencing a diverse group of people you open your self up to differing viewpoints and ways of thinking.
- Do something you already do, but do it differently. Get out of that rut!
- Exercise more (yes, the physical kind!)
- Travel. Visit new places, learn about new cultures. This can even be as simple as visiting a different grocery store in a new neighborhood.
- Make art.
- Practice mindfulness.
There are so many more ways, but it cannot be a one and done thing. You MUST be intentional with creating these new connections. It takes time so be patient. If anything, I hope this post sparks a desire in you to learn more about neuroplasticity
Heck, just learning more about neuroplasticity will help you get those synapses firing!
I’ll be writing more on this topic so be sure to check back often or subscribe to post alerts and I’ll let let know when I do.
That was an AWESOME read! The part about our not being able to grow out of infancy without Neuroplasticity is deep in that it also applies to ourselves as fully grown adults: WE ARE INFANTS compared to our true potential, and it is in our best interest to continue to push past our limited current selves in order to develop into something – SOMEONE – greater than what we are.
Neuroplasticity is what allows us to do it. Thanks for the post, David!
Thank you for the comment. As you know (more than I do on this topic for sure) there is so much more to learn and discuss about neuroplasticity. I’ve been thinking about a method one can use to ensure they are always strengthening those connections.
You know, one with a snazzy name who’s letters spell out the steps. 😄