Neuroplasticity is the ability of the nervous system (brain) to change its activity and response to a stimulus by creating new neural pathways. Neuroplasticity occurs through many different mechanisms, but mainly through the strengthening or weakening of connections between the 80 billion neurons in the brain. Did you know that each neuron makes about 5000 connections with thousands of other neurons? That is a lot of possibilities inside your skull! Each thought, emotion, habit -- even your personality -- is coded in these connections. Through neuroplasticity, you can change your brain and change your mind.
Why Is It Important?
Without neuroplasticity, we wouldn't have the key functions of learning and memory and therefore would not grow as humans. It's the way we create and break habits. It's how we remember the person's name we met yesterday. It's the way we can change our mindset on a situation and our life. There are multiple ways to enhance neuroplasticity. First, the basics: sleeping well, eating a healthy diet, exercising -- all have been shown to be critical for brain, and thus mental, health. Staying up all night to cram for that test? It may be necessary to pass, but it is definitely not the optimal strategy for retaining the information in the long run and feeling good about school. Did you know that neuroplasticity is also a mindset? People who adopt a growth mindset actually learn faster and retain more material, ultimately developing a healthier state of being.
Habits are essential to life. We have habits of action and habits of thoughts and habits of feelings. They are our "go-to" patterns that crop up time and time again. Neuroplasticity is critical to changing all of these habits. Some are easy to change -- some are extremely difficult -- but, all can change if you just put your "mind" to it. Think of becoming physically fit. If you go to the gym, you don't go home an hour later super fit. In fact, you might go home thinking "wow, I need to go to the gym more often!" So it is with habits. You can't change them all at once. It takes repeated and concerted effort. But, and here is the good news, that effort will pay off. You CAN change your old patterns of thoughts, doing, feeling. You can become happier, healthier, and more engaged with your loved ones, friends, and life. All because of neuroplasticity.
Research on using positive psychological perspectives to drive brain plasticity in a positive direction is
increasingly encouraging and empowering for clinicians and clients
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