Here’s the good news!! You can change your brain and in doing so, change your life. YOU can be the architect of your brain.
At one stage it was thought that your brain was hardwired at birth and therefore unchangeable, but we now know that the brain is plastic and constantly
being reshaped by our daily thoughts, emotions and experiences. This Guest Post is by Tamika Dwight-Scott.
Only 15% of a baby’s brain is hardwired at birth
During Quest for Life’s residential healing programs, we touch on the journey of the baby, which looks at the development of the brain and development.
The remaining part of the brain is formed due to the child’s experiences, both negative and positive, and the environment they are born into.
A young child’s daily experiences determine which brain connections develop and which will last for a lifetime. The amount and quality of care, stimulation
and interaction they receive in their early years makes all the difference. By the time the baby is 3 years old, most of wiring of the limbic part
of the brain is formed.
If a child grows up in a positive and nurturing environment, they will develop the ability to self-regulate and be able to express their emotional needs
in a healthy way.
Unfortunately, not all children have a positive experience, as they may have been born into a family where they were exposed to things like abuse, neglect,
family violence or lack of nurturing. This can then have a negative impact on early brain development and ultimately, how the child goes throughout
life, struggling to deal with their emotions.
The brain can be reshaped
The exciting part is, Scientists have now proven that your brain is being shaped, moulded and changed by your experiences every day.
They now know that, just like a plastic bottle of water (that you can influence the shape by way of squeezing it or heating it), the brain is also plastic
and can be shaped by our daily experiences and thoughts.
This ability to be able to change your brain is known as Neuroplasticity.
In effect what we are saying here is that you do not have to be a victim of what has happened to you and if you have experienced trauma, suffering, neglect
or abuse, there is hope that you can rewire your brain and have a different experience of life.
In saying this, it’s not about negating what happened to you, or minimising the past, it’s more around getting to the stage in life where you say,
“something needs to change, and it’s me.”
Changing your patterns
Perhaps you find that the coping strategies you took on to get through are no longer working for you, and you’re making a conscious effort to try something
If you continue to do the same thing over-and-over again, you can expect to receive the same result. There’s a saying that
“neurons that fire together, wire together”.
What this means is that, if you continue to have the same thoughts, behaviours or beliefs, the neural pathways join up to make a superhighway/ well-worn
track/ pathway in your brain.
Imagine what it would be like to have new thoughts, behaviours and beliefs so you can create new neural pathways?
So, how do you use your mind to change your brain?
Quest for Life offers many programs and workshops which all touch on the use of neuroplasticity to change your life. In the 1-day workshop Change your Brain, Change your Life,
we get very specific on how to form new neural pathways and make positive change.
We use the symbol of a Mandala to represent different parts of the brain, so you can see how as a coping or survival strategy, you may well be
reacting from the Limbic (Fight or Flight) part of the brain. This part of the brain is very important, especially if there is threat or danger, however,
if we are constantly being alert and hyper-vigilant, our bodies can be in a state of constant stress.
You can learn how to engage the ‘CEO’ of your brain, the logical thinking part, being the Neo Cortex. Here you will have the ability to respond to what
is happening around you, rather than being swept up in the storm of events.
Ideas we cover in this one day program include:
- On a bad day, practicing gratitude can be something as simple as being thankful or grateful for the fact that you have running water or electricity.
- There are many studies on gratitude and the lasting effects it has on the brain. This comes back to what you focus on, impacts the way you feel.
- If you’re feeling down and upset about a person, situation or experience, naturally over-thinking about this will most likely take you down a rabbit
hole to feeling depressed.
- Alternatively, if you make a conscious choice to redirect your attention and not give that person, event or situation any more power, you can focus
on what you have in your life as opposed to what you’re lacking.
- If you have never given meditation a try, we strongly suggest you give it a go.
- Even if you start with a 10 minute a day guided practice, you will start to notice a difference in your sense of wellbeing and awareness.
- Research shows that meditation increases gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain mentioned earlier – the CEO or the rational
thinking part of the brain.
- According to studies by Sara Lazar, a leader of the study and psychologist at Harvard Medical School, the prefrontal cortex of meditators is actually
larger than that of non-meditators.
- The focus of meditation is to train your mind to be still.
“The mind is a good servant but a dreadful master”
- By engaging in mindfulness and mediation practices, you’ll be learn to quieten your mind and calm your body and as a result of this, change your brain.
- Try Petrea King’s Coming to your senses or buy a Petrea King Meditation CD
- Again, studies have shown the immense benefits of visualisation. By visualising you are setting an intention of how you want to look, feel and be in
- The daily practice of visualising and imagining how you want a situation to play out or how you are going to be in the company of a challenging person
or situation, you are strengthening neural networks.
- The brain cannot distinguish between something that is real or imagined, so when you visualise the best version of yourself, it initiates positive
emotion and physiology.
Changing your thoughts and your words
- Negative language and thoughts reinforce self-limiting beliefs. It’s important to be aware of what you think and say, as it can have a profound impact
on your quality of life.
- These beliefs are chronic thought patterns which evoke certain emotions that you may have been feeling for years.
- These beliefs are generally given to us, either verbally or non-verbally in our younger years, so it’s as if you swallow whole what was given to you.
- Eg, if you grew up in a family where your parents worked long hours and were not emotionally supportive, you may have developed a belief that you are
unlovable or not worthy of attention.
- As a result of this, you may have words in your ‘self-talk’ that reinforce this belief, such as ‘I can’t’ be in a loving relationship, or I will ‘never’
find somebody who loves me.
- At Quest we discuss ways to eliminate these simple, yet generally unconscious words from our vocabulary –
Can’t; Should/ ought to/ have to; try; but; never & always and impossible.
- Being mindful of these limiting words and consciously changing them to something like,
‘I choose to’ or ‘choose not to’; ‘I will’ or ‘I won’t’, using ‘AND’ instead of ‘but’; and staying in the now,
- These will allow you to form new neural pathways in your brain.
- Imagine how powerful it is when you start using more positive language.
- Again this takes awareness of old patterns and once you gain this awareness, you have the capacity for positive changes.