Before I came across the term neuroplasticity, I was mentally ready for a CHANGE. It was the Fall of 2011, and I was feeling fragmented, ungrounded and frustrated in my own skin. I was also diagnosed with a severe case of pityriasis rosea. My body was screaming for help, indicating that something was grossly out of balance.
In my teens, I was trained in Transcendental Meditation. I practiced Buddhist-style meditation in my twenties and thirties, but I still had a sense of “not-good-enough.” After four years of practicing Neurosculpting® meditation with Lisa Wimberger, I know for a fact that we can rewire our brain by resculpting our neural mindscape; one neuron at a time, one story at a time. We can do it thanks to what neuropsychologist Rick Hanson calls self-directed neuroplasticity. We do it all the time, mostly unconsciously.
As we clear our scripts intentionally, the integration takes place. Just as happiness is a byproduct of meditation, alignment is a byproduct of paying attention to our mind. Brain neurochemistry changes when we start minding our thinking process. Besides, it is now widely accepted and empirically proven, that our brains are elastic and regenerative. We have the ability to generate new brain cells — a process known as neurogenesis.
An MRI study published in 2000 by scientists at University College, London, showed that in London taxi drivers, the rear portion of the hippocampus was enlarged compared with those of control subjects, confounding the long-held notion that the adult human brain cannot grow (National Geographic, March 2005). Moreover, we can boost production of new brain cells by engaging in certain activities and consuming foods that affect production of BDNF, or brain derived neurotrophic factor. There are many superfoods that boost new brain cell production (BDNF) and support the Prefrontal Cortex (a place of cognition, self-awareness and higher reasoning): Turmeric, coconut oil, DHA, green tea and blueberries. In contrast, any added sugar, junk food, simple carbs and unhealthy saturated fats feed the limbic system, keeping us locked in the reactionary mode. Choosing a proper breakfast will set your brain and body for the productive day ahead.
Science and spiritual traditions are finally arriving to the same conclusions. The Founder of Mindsight Institute, neuropsychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel, defines the mind as an “emergent, self-organizing, embodied, relational process,” referring to the mind as a flow of energy that fluctuates between an infinite plane of possibility and 100 percent probability (thoughts manifested in physical reality). He suggests that an open plane of possibility is available to everyone if we choose to train our mind. This idea is similar to the profoundly brilliant poet William Blake’s famous quote: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”
But first, we have to start paying attention to our cognitive mind. Our life choices, besides healthy nutrition, are going to either assist or hinder our brain synergy. Activities supporting production of BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor):
- Physical activity (e.g. yoga practice)
- Sleep and Rest (brain rejuvenates during down-time)
- Nature exposure
Among all the activities that make us slow down and engage the parasympathetic nervous system (state in which we feel calm and present), MEDITATION is the most powerful tool. It literally grows gray matter!
[Photo by digitalbob8 – CC BY]
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