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Neuroplasticity - Train your Brain

Neuroplasticity is a really exciting idea in neuroscience which says that the more you use your brain in a particular way, a bit like like training a muscle, the stronger and better developed it becomes.

Neuroplasticity opens up a whole doorway for change. Scientists used to believe that the brain was a bit like an electrical circuit board - when you used it you set down pathways which were burned into the brain forever. Now we know that this is not the case at all.

The brain has this incredible ability to change and learn and to grow in response to how it's used.

So if you can remember back to your school biology lessons (a long time ago for me!) imagine a synapse which is a little gap between two nerve cells, the signal comes along, it reaches his gap and has to jump across the gap. As it jumps across the gap, it could go to one of a number of different nerve cells that will carry on to a different destination. So one destination may be pain and other maybe pleasure, another might be happiness and other may be hunger and the brain decides which one it funnels the signal into.

Now if you find that you constantly jump that gap and end up at the same nerve cell each time, then the brain will keep using this particular pathway all the time as this is the one we seem to be favouring. Because of this the brain says ‘I can make this job easier by moving these nerve cells together so the gap they have to jump is smaller’. And because the other nerve cells are not being triggered, they start to move away so you get a physical change in the structure and architecture of the brain.

This means the next time the signal comes along, it's obvious which way it's going to go - it's going to go along that favoured pathway. This favourite pathway then becomes very fast and very influential and it starts to connect to all sorts of other parts of the brain.

The problem is of course, that we are creatures of habit. We get very used to doing things in a certain way and our brains help us by taking the shortcut to make this easier for us.

Imagine a few scenarios of your daily routine - notice how you always make a cup of tea in the same way (stirring it clockwise for instance), the way you comb your hair or brush your teeth (I bet you always start by brushing the same teeth!)

As creatures of habit this can be good because it makes things very rapid, but it can cause problems too if the habits we have are not very good.

However your brain really does want to help you out and one of the ways we can do this is by realising that words, and ‘states’ and neurology are all intimately connected. We need to get smarter about this because typically what we all tend to do is use the wrong kind of words that generate the wrong kind of states. We even do it when we’re trying to work out what we want. Always working in the negative, for example, ‘I don’t want to be angry, or I don’t want to be sad’ will trigger the neurology of anger or sadness, which of course, makes it easier to feel anger or sadness.

But people do this all the time. When working with clients, my aim is to get them to say what it is they want from their sessions with me but so many of them answer with a negative! They will say, I don't want to be stressed, I don't want to be anxious, I don't want to be angry, I don't want to be guilty - which is just exercising those pathways - the very ones they don't want to be exercising!

If you have stuff going on in your life as most of us do, and you’re thinking about what it is you want, or want to change; the first step is make sure it is something that is expressed in a positive way.

Neurologically this is absolutely the most significant thing you can do - remember, the brain is like a muscle - the more you use it, the stronger and more effective it becomes, and the words we use are intimately linked with our neurology.

First try to become aware of the words you’re using as we often don’t even notice that we’re communicating in the negative - we don't think about what we say, we just say it!

So, start to notice your language, think about what you’re about to say and then try to make sure you put it in the positive! The more we do it the more of a habit it becomes and then you’ll notice subtle changes in the way that others respond to you, the way you feel and the way you act!

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