The #1 Healthy Brain Hack
Your brain stops developing around the age of 25. From then on it becomes harder to learn new things, and it’s all pretty much downhill.
Have you heard this fact before? It’s done the rounds. But good news- it’s not true!
In fact, your brain is the only organ that never stops developing. Through active learning, repetition and new habits, you can essentially wire yourself an entirely new brain, new life and improved performance. The secret? It’s called neuroplasticity.
The word “neuro” refers to your nervous system- that is, your brain, spinal cord and all the nerves that send and receive information to and from the brain. It’s the bridge between the external world and your internal experience of it.
The word “plasticity” comes from Greek, essentially meaning “moldable.” Imagine clay, or melted plastic- it is flexible and can change depending on how you shape it.
Neuroplasticity is the process of the brain making connections, and refers to the flexibility of your brain, and the power to actively keep it flexible. You can change your entire internal experience of the world by actively connecting new neurons together.
Neurons, or “nerve cells,” are the cells in the nervous system that receive sensory information from the external world and translate them into an electric signal, which we in turn translate into a thought, an idea, a movement or speech.
Brains are considered more flexible under the age of 25 because this is when we’re doing most of our learning and making new connections in them constantly. However, we can keep our brains flexible by exercising the neurons and actively making those new connections by learning new things and creating new behaviours with repetition.
Why is a flexible brain good for me?
Exercising your neuroplasticity keeps you in good mental health because it can transform a negative or limiting mindset into a positive and expansive one that sees new opportunities and improved performance, and it can balance the chemistry of the brain with healthy behaviour that positively impacts your overall health. It’s commonly referred to as “rewiring” or “retraining” your brain.
For example, every time you think “this is stressful,” or “I’m not smart enough to learn this,” you’re deepening the neural pathway that tells this to your entire neuro system, which will respond accordingly and shut down or react to the information presented. Every time you think “this is simple, actually,“ or “I can do this,” your nervous system registers that instead and again reacts accordingly, essentially opening you to learning and performing with more ease. This is how people go from couch potatoes to learning two new languages in a year- reprogramming their minds through repetition of new information. Exercising neuroplasticity also helps people recover from brain injury and disease, as the brain heals very quickly with exercise.
Sounds awesome! How do I improve my neuroplasticity?
In her tedX talk, neuroscientist Kelly Lambert uses the term “behaviorceuticals,” which means shifting the chemistry of the brain through behaviour. She uses the example of Charles Darwin who was known to walk around his property on what he called the “thinking path” to calm his nerves and regulate the chemistry of the brain- as opposed to reacting in a stressed out state and popping a pill.
There are many simple behaviours, or actions we can implement to expand our brains, keep them healthy and balance their chemistry, such as:
Continuous learning- it doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. If you’re learning, you’re creating new neural connections and keeping your brain nice and flexible. The brain benefits from learning the way your body does from exercise.
Read fiction- researchers have found that reading fiction creates those new neural pathways too, due to original information entering the brain.
Keep moving- when we move, neurons are firing together. Constant and varied movement means the brain is lighting up all the time in different ways, keeping it flexible.
Memory games and quizzes- they’re like a long run followed by yoga for your brain.
What would you be capable of if you stretched your brain and kept it flexible? Enroll in an online course and find out! And sign up to our newsletter for more mind-bending tips and activities, so we can grow together.