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Here’s What Neuroplasticity Means for You

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27 June 2018. Have you ever heard of neuroplasticity?

For a long time, and up until very recently, it was thought that the adult brain was essentially fixed in its structure, with separate brain regions being wholly responsible for different neurological tasks. This theory gave credence to the well-worn saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

But the old theory was wrong. Science is always moving on, with new technologies such as portable incubators, and new discoveries such as neuroplasticity arising and changing pre-existing paradigms and practices.

Recent findings have shown that the brain is in a state of constant change throughout life, with new neuronal connections being formed, and old ones being erased, depending on our actions and environmental circumstance. It’s this malleability of the brain that we know as neuroplasticity.

But what does neuroplasticity mean for you? Let’s take a look.

Your habits truly are your destiny

It’s tempting to think of habits as somewhat abstract patterns of action, which exist and endure as a matter of our whims from day to day.

In fact, neuroplasticity shows us that our habits truly are our destiny, and not just in the sense that what we repeatedly do affects the social outcomes we’re likely to experience in our lives.

Our habits — in fact — change the physical structure of our brains and become “embodied” in the most literal sense.

There are both positive and negative ramifications to this. On the positive side, this means that when we stick with a good habit for long enough, it will embed itself in us, physically, and become increasingly easy to perform over time.

On the negative side, however, bad habits, if allowed to settle in, will need to be driven out with focus and applied willpower unless we want them to set up permanent residence in our brains.

Habits matter more than we ever could have guessed before.

It’s always worth training to improve yourself; your brain just might oblige

In his book, “The Brain That Changes Itself”, Norman Doidge looks at examples of people who suffered severe brain injuries and were, incredibly, able to regain much if not all of their normal function thanks to special training procedures and the power of neuroplasticity.

A stroke survivor who could barely move was taught to walk, talk, and move again, so well that he was hiking when he died, years later. His brain rewired itself to accommodate for his training, despite damage that should have left him incapacitated for life.

A woman with severe social and perceptual disorders managed to acquire normal social functioning thanks to a training program she developed for herself.

Many other examples abound in the book, with the core message being clear. If you’re struggling to improve your physical, or mental, capacity, maintain hope, keep training, and keep looking for more effective training methods. Neuroplasticity may just kick in on your side.

Visualization is an extremely potent tool

It has been shown by researchers that subjects who merely visualise themselves performing physical exercises can actually become physically stronger as a result. While the precise mechanisms of this may be unclear, it likely has to do with neuroplasticity and the fact that strength is partly neuronal.

The implications of this are incredible. If we want to change our habitual patterns of thought, or alter our persona to become more optimistic and engaging, visualization — whether as the result of written, spoken, or purely mental affirmations — may begin the process of neuroplastic change for us.

This, in part, may explain the effectiveness of psychological exercises such as CBT. In any event, your thoughts really are things, and really can change your life.

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