The idea of neuroplasticity can change your entire mindset, but why don’t more people know about this? Although not something that is commonly spoken about, neuroplasticity can be extremely helpful in the recovery processes for things like addiction, depression, anxiety, and stress. It is a common misconception that people that struggle with anxiety will always be anxious or that someone with depression may think that they will always perceive and think negatively. With a mindset like that, it’s easy to lose all hope. One relatively new, hard-to-pronounce concept offers optimism: neuroplasticity. This is because once your brain is familiar with something, it’s easy for it to continue those thought patterns.
But, Science has found that you can change your brain and the way you think by changing the neural pathways in your brain, and it all starts by thinking different thoughts. Our brains are like Playdoh, they can mold and change, and when they are young, they mold and change easily. However, as we age, it gets harder and more difficult to reshape, but that doesn’t mean that reshaping is impossible. The reason why it’s more difficult to change as we age is that our brains have already developed and gotten used to thought patterns, and sticking with these thought patterns is easier. But, that doesn’t mean that they are permanent.
Neuroplasticity is the idea that we can use thoughts to reshape our brain and affect our mood. It allows us to expand our minds and expand the way we think. These changes can transform a person’s thought patterns, personality traits, and behaviors significantly. This phenomenon means that recovery is possible.
Think about when you are or were in school. When you learn a new unit or a new language for example, there is a mental strain on your brain, it is processing new information that it hasn’t learned before, and expanding your knowledge. Just like how you can learn new things, you can rewire your subconscious through your imagination.
Neurogenesis is the process through which the human brain creates new brain cells, even in adulthood. When these neurons are formed, the brain develops and changes. Some people lump this in with neuroplasticity although they are different concepts. But we never stop growing and changing. Understanding this concept can be life-changing in the process of recovery or in general.
How does it work?
Behavioral and thought patterns are made up of groups of brain cells that form neural pathways. The more that you think about something or behave a certain way, the stronger that neural pathway is and the easier that thought or behavior becomes.
For example, consider someone with anxiety. They may automatically think things like school as a stresser or think things like “what if I’m not good enough”. That’s because the neural pathways for negative self-talk have become strong after living with anxiety. On the other hand, thoughts like, “I’m worthy of love,” can be difficult because pathways of self-love have become weaker.
Neuroplasticity can change all of that. You can strengthen neural pathways that serve you and lessen those that don’t. Not only can you change the pathways of your existing neurons, but you can grow new ones. Changing your brain is not easy, but it’s absolutely worth the effort.
There are a lot of different ways that this can be done, and while there are common things that are used, everybody’s brain works differently and is wired differently. So, what may work for one person may not work for another. While daily affirmations are great for your mental health, telling yourself that you are happy every single day isn’t necessarily the solution.
Therapy sessions can be extremely beneficial, as not only are you able to speak about your struggles, but they can give you the tools to retrain your specific brain. The more and more you do it, the easier it becomes. Something as simple as writing down three things you are grateful for can have a tremendous impact on your mental health.