We work out, eat healthy food and take care of our body. A lot of time, energy and resources are spent on improving our physical health and wellbeing. Then why do we neglect our most important body part; our brain?
Without our brain there is no us. Everything we think, feel and do originates in our brain. The brain is so complicated that science is far from understanding exactly how it works. We do know that it is made out of neural pathways and neural structures that are changeable, a concept also referred to as neuroplasticity.
The concept of neuroplasticity is perfectly explained in this short clip:
Your brain is constantly adapting and rewiring itself. Your thoughts and behaviours influence this process. If certain thoughts and behaviours are repeated often enough, a strong connection, also known as a neural pathway, is created.
Just think of your brain as a dynamic, connected power grid, with billions of roads and pathways lighting up every time you think, feel or do something. Some of these roads are well travelled. These are your habits; your established ways of thinking, feeling and doing. Every time you think in a certain way, practice a particular task or feel a specific emotion, you strengthen this road and it becomes easier for your brain to travel this pathway.
A Road Less Travelled
When you think about something differently, learn a new task, or choose a different emotion, you are carving out a new road. If you keep travelling that road, your brain begins to use this pathway more and this new way of thinking, feeling and doing becomes second nature. The old pathway becomes used less and less and it weakens. This process of rewiring your brain by forming new connections and weakening old ones is neuroplasticity in action.
One reason why it is so difficult to change the way you think, feel and behave is that your beliefs and corresponding neural pathways have been formed early in life. They have been reinforced and strengthened, over and over again. In other words, your brain activity has carved out a deep and well travelled road. If that road remains and no new roads are built and strengthened, it is very difficult to change your ways and you will easily fall back into old patterns. Creating and strengthening new, positive neural pathways is an essential part of achieving lasting change.
The good news is that we all have the ability to learn and change by rewiring our brains. If you have ever changed a bad habit, or thought about something differently, you have carved a new pathway in your brain, experiencing neuroplasticity first hand. With repeated and directed attention towards your desired change, you can effectively rewire your brain.