Neuroplasticity: How to Rewire Your Brain
Have you ever asked yourself why some people seem to learn new skills and adapt to new situations faster than others?
Is it because of some special skill they have?
Maybe its genetics - they must come from a smart family or something?
Or is it just the result of thousands of hours of practice and dedication. (there’s certainly no shortcuts to mastery)
While doing the work to attain a new skill is necessary, it doesn’t take some sort of special sauce to be a capable human …
The ability to learn new skills, adapt to new situations, and even change the wiring of your brain is an ability that everyone has.
It’s called Neuroplasticity, and only recently science has discovered just how powerful it truly is.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- What is Neuroplasticity?
- How does it actually work?
- Benefits of Neuroplasticity
- How to get started
What is Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to change its structure and function in response to various stimuli, such as: experience, learning, environmental influences, underlying learning and memory, recovery from injury, and development of new skills and abilities.
Ok, that sounds great . . . but enough of the fancy science terminology bullsh*t, what does that really mean?
In other words, the brain can adapt and rewire itself based on the experiences we have, the skills and lessons we learn, and the information we take in.
Seems like a simple concept, but it’s much more powerful than you’d think.
Here’s why …
For many years it was believed that the brain was unable to change itself after childhood, but research now shows that this is not the case.
Just as a child learns to walk, swim, ride a bike, etc through neuroplasticity, adults too can use neuroplasticity to learn complex skills and behaviors. This ability never goes away.
Now, this isn’t to say that you can pick up a guitar and learn a song on the first day, or speak a new language fluently after only a month of studying it. All these (like many other things in life) come from many hours of consistent work and dedication.
And while actually doing the work is just as important, it’s not what I want to focus on …
My focus here is this - It’s simply the fact that you can do it.
You can learn that new skill you’ve been interested in, or that new hobby that’s been appealing to you, or even just a new exercise in the gym. The list of what you can train your brain to learn is endless.
So, now that you know what Neuroplasticity is capable of, how exactly does it work?
How does it work?
Neuroplasticity occurs through a process called synaptic plasticity. This is just a fancy word for the ability of neurons to form new connections with other neurons.
Talking about the brain can always get confusing, so let me break it down for you in simpler terms ( or what we like to call “STRONG words )
The brain is made up of billions of neurons that communicate with one another through these connections called synapses.
When we learn new information or skills, these connections between neurons become stronger, and new connections are formed.
This is because the brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters. These help strengthen the connections between neurons.
However, just as we strengthen these connections by learning more and more, the opposite happens when we stop…
When we stop using certain skills or stop engaging in certain activities, these connections weaken and may eventually be eliminated.
This is why it's important to continue learning and engaging in new experiences, and to keep the brain active and healthy.
Here’s an analogy that might help you understand better …
Imagine the neurons in your brain are like the roots of a plant. The more water and sunlight you give the plant, the stronger and more connected its root system becomes. This allows the plant to grow stronger and more capable.
Similarly, the more you exercise your brain by learning new skills and information, the stronger the connections between neurons become, allowing for a stronger, more capable brain.
So, you might be thinking “Stronger and more capable in what ways?”
Glad you asked (you didn’t) - below are just a few benefits that neuroplasticity has to offer.
Benefits of Neuroplasticity
- Neuroplasticity allows the brain to adapt and change in response to new information and experiences. This means that with practice, learning new skills and information becomes easier and more efficient.
- A study found that participants who learned new motor skills showed changes in the brain's structure and function, showing that neuroplasticity plays a key role in learning and skill acquisition.
- As I mentioned earlier, Neuroplasticity also helps strengthen connections between neurons, making it easier to remember and recall information. This can be particularly helpful for those experiencing memory loss or cognitive decline.
Faster Recovery from Brain Injury:
- The brain's ability to adapt and rewire itself allows for faster recovery from injuries such as strokes, traumatic brain injuries, and other types of brain damage.
- One study found that neuroplasticity-based therapies showed to be effective in promoting recovery from traumatic brain injury.
Improved Mental Health:
- Neuroplasticity can also be beneficial for mental health. By allowing the brain to develop new patterns of thinking and behavior, this can improve your overall well-being.
- Research found that cognitive training exercises designed to improve neuroplasticity led to improvements in depression and anxiety symptoms in its participants.
Slows down the effects of aging:
- By continuing to learn new things and challenging the brain, neuroplasticity can help slow down the natural decline of cognitive function that comes with getting older. Who would’ve thought learning new things keeps you young? (duh)
- Interestingly enough, another study found that engaging in mentally stimulating activities throughout your lifespan can help preserve cognitive function and delay the onset of age-related cognitive decline.
How to Get Started
- Engage in new experiences: Try new hobbies or activities that challenge your brain in new ways.
- Practice mindfulness: This can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can negatively affect neuroplasticity.
- Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to promote neuroplasticity and improve brain function.
- Learn a new skill: Whether it's learning a new language or instrument, challenging your brain with new skills can help to improve its plasticity.
If You Read Anything, Read This …
Neuroplasticity is a fascinating and powerful tool that has the potential to improve our brain function and overall health.
Improved learning, better memory, aided recovery, improved mental health, combatting effects of aging - these are just a few of the benefits that neuroplasticity has to offer.
By engaging in new experiences, practicing mindfulness, exercising ,and learning new skills you can promote neuroplasticity and begin to change your brain.