The Superpower That Helps You Flex Your Brain — And 5 Ways To Use It

You probably saw this buzzword, “neuroplasticity,” and wondered what is all the fuss about. Neuroplasticity, it turns out, is one of the most important aspects of brain health and keeping not just our bodies, but our minds young and vibrant.

Without neuroplasticity, we lose our ability to think creatively and modify our thinking, to grow and change. Pretty important stuff.

Neuroplasticity, in layman’s terms, is the ability of the brain to change and grow in response to both internal and external life experiences, such as a new job or after a stroke, by creating new neurons and building new networks in the brain.

It is the ability of the brain to adapt, modify and learn new skills, habits and beliefs, so we can continue to meet the ever-changing needs in our lives and continue to thrive. Without neuroplasticity, we can get stuck in unhealthy thought patterns and continue with destructive behaviour.

Here are five ways neuroplasticity benefits you and some suggestions for enhancing it

1. It helps you think more flexibly

Being able to adjust our thoughts and manage changes in our lives is paramount to being happy.

When we have rigid ideas about how we think things should go and need to be, we create frustration and unhappiness in our experience.

An easy way to practice this:

Being able to shift gears, such as when our favourite Starbucks drink is unavailable, or a business meeting did not go as we had expected, is the key to finding happiness and contentment. A flexible brain is able to say, “Oh well, I tried a new drink that I didn’t think I liked but is pretty good, or I have to adjust my strategy with these customers to meet their needs, I didn’t quite get it at the meeting.”

2. It helps stir your creative juices

We all love the idea of feeling that creative flow and coming up with new and novel ideas for problems or experiencing those “aha” moments. Neuroplasticity enhances our creativity and helps us tap into that wonderful flow.

Creativity helps us improve our job skills, enhance our relationships and help us experience the joy of expressing ourselves.

An easy way to practice this:

Get out your paintbrushes and coloured pencils. Allow yourself to draw without any intention or idea in mind. It can simply be colours blended together or scribbles.

The point is to just allow a different expression of ourselves, other than just verbal communication. Maybe you are inspired to dance, put on some music and let yourself dance freely! Whatever it is, do something you don’t normally do in order to help you “flex” new parts of your mind.

3. It jars your memory and enhances learning

No surprise here, yes, neuroplasticity helps us with this as well and encourages neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons and new brain cells. Chronic stress and anxiety deplete our ability to form new synapses and neurons.

Learning new skills in therapy such as mindfulness or DBT skills can be hindered without neuroplasticity.

Easy ways to start practising this:

Have you wanted to get back into learning Spanish, Italian or maybe Russian? Well sign up for a class, or make it even easier, download an app like Duolingo. Even a short time, like 15-30 minutes a day, can make a difference and increase neuroplasticity.

Do you still have your flute or clarinet in the back of your closet? Pull it out and start playing again, anytime we learn something new and go outside our comfort zone, we challenge our brain and increase neuroplasticity.

4. It opens your mind to new thought patterns

A common characteristic of depression is deeply entrenched negative beliefs and thoughts about the self and the world. Increased neuroplasticity aids the brain in learning new adaptive, healthier thoughts about oneself and aids us in developing an open mindset, and learning new patterns of thinking.

Neuroplasticity helps us change dysfunctional thought patterns and aids us in our receptivity to change.

An easy way to start practising this:

Make a plan to handle an emotional situation/problem differently next time it arises, thinking through how that might feel and how the outcome and your reactions might be different. Then consciously make the effort to enact those changes in your reactions.

5. It increases your mental and emotional resiliency

With increased synaptic connections and communication between the cells, the brain is able to bounce back more and adjust to setbacks and challenges in life. With age, stress, and certain disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD, our resilience is compromised and we don’t see other possibilities.

It’s as if we are stuck in a hole, with a ladder to the right of us, but we can’t see the ladder and have tunnel vision. Neuroplasticity helps us shift our field of vision and change our mindset.

An easy way to practice this:

Write a list of times when you have successfully managed challenges such as juggling, children and a new job, challenging emotional states that you were able to overcome and remind yourself daily of these things. Positive self-talk, such as this is temporary, you handled challenges before well, and this too shall pass, all remind the brain that it can manage and that you have the ability to deal with difficult emotions and situations.

Yeah, You got this!!


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