Your mind can change your brain.
Funny how that works, but it is true. Before you click off, thinking this is some woo-woo ritual where you light seven candles and spin around three times, I can assure you this is a scientific field with real data. You may believe that the ability of your brain is set in stone from the day you are born, but this belief is outdated. How your brain works, what it looks like, and how fast it processes information is all changeable by you.
Neuroplasticity is a long word for changing the function and structure of the brain. The brain is malleable at a young age when there is no defined organization yet. However, it can still change when you are an adult. Maybe you want to experience less stress, enjoy the simple things in life, and be thankful for the world around you. You can use your mind to change your brain to change your mind for the better. Before we dive into the deep end, let’s start small and simple.
Whether you like it or not, your brain is always changing, making new connections, and storing information. As it continues to remodel during your life, it makes changes based on prior experiences and memories on autopilot, or by intentional changes made by you. Accidental changes happen when you let your brain shape its organizational networks without your attention. Self-directed neuroplasticity means you purposely channel thoughts and past experiences to your advantage. When your brain works on autopilot, it doesn’t work towards your intentions. It captures negative thoughts like a magnet but lets positive memories slide through like water. When you consciously control what your brain does with the information it receives, you can use it for maximum performance. Let’s look at six simple ways you can control the formation of your brain and mind for the better.
Garbage in is garbage out. The brain uses 20% of your body’s nutrients, energy, and oxygen while it makes up for 2% of your body. If you feed it a poor diet, it will perform poorly. A brain-healthy menu contains colorful fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, natural vitamin E, C, B (B6, B12), and folic acid. Harvard Medical School researchers have proven a strong correlation between mental agility and the number of green vegetables consumed. Besides upping your leafy green intake, increase your wild salmon, cacao bean, blueberry, and coffee consumption.
A person who works on one thing at a time is 50% faster and more accurate than somebody who multitasks. Your brain cannot focus on two things at once, so it will take longer and make more mistakes. Instead of scheduling 4-hour blocks of a single activity, vary the sort of tasks you commit to during the day. During the times when you laser-focus on thoughtful tasks, turn off time-wasting distractions.
Moderate exercise at least three times a week is necessary for a healthy brain. Active people are in a better mood, concentrate better, and have a better memory.
Socialization isn’t only good for catching up with friends. It also slows down cognitive decline. People who are socially active throughout their life delay the onset of dementia while maintaining baseline brain performance. Life-long relationships with friends and family are great to keep your brain in good condition.
Did you know that getting only five hours or less sleep is like being drunk? If you are sleep-deprived, you don’t have the necessary energy, speed, or abilities to accomplish groundbreaking things. Your creative reserve will dry up, decisions will be harder to make, and those habits you’ve been working hard on will slip through the cracks. Consistent sleep problems can lead to anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and even more severe symptoms. Ideally, 7-8 hours is what you need. Oversleeping is also a problem, so don’t spend your entire morning in bed.
Stress is the main reason the brain doesn’t perform at its optimal level. Mindfulness and meditation improve attention, empathy, and compassion. It also lifts your mood, boosts your immune system, and decreases stress-related cortisol. So many benefits compared to the simple act of sitting and thinking of nothing.
Having positive experiences is not enough. We need to weave them into the brain using the techniques above while letting the negative thoughts pass through. It is not an easy task, but with consistent effort, anything is possible. The question is, how badly do you want it? Your brain makes you suffer, and only you can do something about it. Once you master directing your attention skillfully, your brain will start working for you instead of against you.
- Hwang, J. (2018, October 1). Effects of Participation in Social Activities on Cognitive Function Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults in Korea. PubMed Central (PMC). Retrieved from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6210154/
- D.Loprinzia, P. (2013, November 20). Physical activity and the brain: A review of this dynamic, bi-directional relationship. Retrieved from sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006899313013401
- Liegro, C. D. (2019, September 1). Physical Activity and Brain Health. PubMed Central (PMC). Retrieved from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770965/